Drive for new cities began in Sandy Springs

Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos speaks during a city council meeting at Sandy Springs City Hall on Tuesday, June 18, 2013. Galambos has lived in Sandy Springs for almost five decades and was the driving force behind the city's incorporation. Galambos, the “founding mother” of Sandy Springs who led the 2005 push for cityhood and served as the new city’s first mayor, died April 19, 2015.
Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos speaks during a city council meeting at Sandy Springs City Hall on Tuesday, June 18, 2013. Galambos has lived in Sandy Springs for almost five decades and was the driving force behind the city's incorporation. Galambos, the “founding mother” of Sandy Springs who led the 2005 push for cityhood and served as the new city’s first mayor, died April 19, 2015.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

With recent movements toward cityhood for several areas of unincorporated DeKalb County thriving, newcomers to the metro may not realize that this mindset was several decades in the making. And the group that led the way eventually saw part of Fulton County become what is now the city of Sandy Springs. Thirteen years ago , residents passed a resolution that paved the way for several others.

The latest to be approved is Eagles Landing in Henry County. Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation Tuesday to carve the city from parts of Stockbridge, despite threats of a legal challenge.

The incorporation movement sprang from discontent with Fulton County government. Tens of thousands of residents moved to Sandy Springs in recent decades seeking a small-town atmosphere. But as years passed they found their community becoming a mishmash of expensive homes, apartments, office parks and strip malls.

Residents complained bitterly about county zoning decisions but felt ignored. Many said Fulton tapped them for property tax revenue but provided few services in return. Some feared annexation by the city of Atlanta.

The Committee of Sandy Springs — which advocated incorporation — formed in 1975. A 1977 effort to incorporate Sandy Springs failed. But the committee continued to lobby state lawmakers for decades.

Fulton County and Atlanta lawmakers, worried about lost tax revenue or harboring ambitions to annex Sandy Springs, easily thwarted the movement. Defeat in the General Assembly became an annual ritual for Sandy Springs advocates.

The group’s persistence, along with a historic realignment of Georgia politics, ultimately cleared the way for Sandy Springs to incorporate.

In 2002, Republicans seized control of the governor’s office and the state Senate for the first time since Reconstruction. Two years later, they won control of the House. And in 2005 — more than three decades after the first stirrings of incorporation fever — the General Assembly permitted Sandy Springs residents to vote on the issue.

After 35 years of frustration, Sandy Springs residents voted overwhelmingly on June 21, 2005 to transform their unincorporated community into one of the largest cities in Georgia. For many backers of cityhood, the vote was very much about local control.

What followed was nearly as dramatic as the city’s incorporation. Though Sandy Springs created its own police and fire departments, it hired a private firm to provide most other services. That was a substantial break from the traditional model of city government, which employed battalions of public workers to deliver services.

The Sandy Springs incorporation and its business model soon inspired other metro Atlanta residents. Brookhaven, Chattahoochee Hills, Dunwoody, Johns Creek, Milton and Peachtree Corners have incorporated in recent years. Forming the cities of LaVista Hills and Tucker will be put to a vote in November.

Update: LaVista Hills was defeated by voters in 2016. Tucker was approved.

RELATED: City of Amazon proposed for DeKalb County, if Amazon moves HQ2 here

Here is a list of recent new cities created in metro Atlanta, with their founding dates:

ExploreSandy Springs, 2005
ExploreBrookhaven, 2012
ExploreChattahoochee Hills, 2007
ExploreDunwoody, 2008
ExploreJohns Creek, 2006
ExploreMilton, 2006
ExplorePeachtree Corners, 2012
ExploreTucker 2016
ExploreStonecrest 2016
ExploreSouth Fulton / Renaissance, 2017
ExploreEagles Landing, 2018