Border feud falls to cities

State Rep. Tom Rice, R-Norcross, sponsor of legislation that would have allowed Berkeley Lake to claim dozens of commercial properties slated for the new city of Peachtree Corners, decided Thursday against pursuing the bill in this year’s legislative session.

Rice instead called on the cities to work out an agreement themselves in the dispute over about 130 properties.

“I am hopeful that [the mayors] and their respective councils can come to a place of agreement on the borders,” Rice said in a statement about HB 956. “When and if they do, I am sure that [state Sen. David] Shafer and I would be glad to implement that agreement in law during the course of the next legislative session.”

Neighboring cities Berkeley Lake, Duluth and Norcross have engaged in a border feud since Peachtree Corners residents were allowed to vote on incorporation in November. All of the cities have moved to annex properties to expand their borders and add more commercial tax revenue streams.

That’s particularly important in Berkeley Lake, one of Gwinnett’s smallest cities with little more than one square mile and 2,100 residents.

Berkeley Lake has mostly targeted commercial properties between North Berkeley Lake Road and South Old Peachtree Road along Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and Buford Highway.

Under HB 956, the annexation by Berkeley Lake would have potentially cost Peachtree Corners about $40,000 in projected tax revenue and possibly another $100,000 in franchise fees.

Berkeley Lake Mayor Lois Salter said city officials were prepared to work with Peachtree Corners but were disappointed Rice abandoned the bill.

“I think that’s very unfortunate because we’ve been trying to work this out for months,” she said. “And it leaves the businesses involved in a very destabilized kind of situation.”

Peachtree Corners will start working toward a resolution of the dispute after runoff elections Tuesday in which voters will choose four more members of the six-seat City Council.

A month ago, residents elected United Peachtree Corners Civic Association founder Mike Mason as mayor and Phil Sadd and Jay Lowe as the city’s first elected council members.

The candidates in the runoff are: David Proud and Alex Wright for Post 3; Jeanne Aulbach and Robert Byars for Post 4; Lorri Christopher and Gray Terry for Post 5; and Weare Gratwick and Brian Stickney for Post 6.

Once the council members are all in office, officials must build a government from scratch for Gwinnett County’s first new city in 56 years. It begins operation July 1.

Mason said in an email that he was pleased the bill dealing with the disputed properties is dead.

“We believed that the original borders ... should be the borders of Peachtree Corners,” he said.

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