Groups supporting, fighting prospective DeKalb cities rally at Capitol

If formed, the city would be located in north central DeKalb County.



If formed, the city would be located in north central DeKalb County.

Groups for and against the creation of two new cities in unincorporated DeKalb County clashed at the state Capitol on Monday as each tried to persuade lawmakers to side with them.

Proponents for the cities of Greenhaven and Vista Grove pushed for DeKalb’s legislative delegation to file bills calling for a vote on the prospective municipalities, while anti-cityhood groups urged the opposite.

The encounter was tense at times, with dozens of residents on both sides of the issue crowding into a DeKalb delegation meeting. At one point at the beginning of the meeting, lead Greenhaven supporter Kathryn Rice was escorted out by a Capitol police officer after she gave an unscheduled speech and was called out for speaking out of order.

The Greenhaven and Vista Grove movements follow a trend of municipalization in DeKalb and the greater metro area. In the last decade, parts of Fulton and DeKalb have slowly become incorporated through the creation of cities like Stonecrest, Tucker, Brookhaven and South Fulton. Existing cities have also been expanding through annexation.

Both proposed cities are large geographic areas that would include a total of about 358,000 residents. Greenhaven would include the entirety of South DeKalb other than Stonecrest, while Vista Grove would fit between Tucker and Brookhaven, Chamblee and Doraville.

Action on the issue of the DeKalb cities is especially urgent this week because Thursday is “Crossover Day” in the Legislature, when bills generally must pass one chamber of the General Assembly to stay alive this session.

So far, no bill has been filed in support of either city.

PREVIOUSLY: Time running out for hopeful DeKalb cities to get crucial legislative support

The groups in support of Vista Grove and Greenhaven united to rally outside the Capitol on Monday morning. The supporters held signs and chanted “Let us vote! Let us vote!”

“There is no risk in letting democracy work,” Andrew Flake, one of the board members for Vista Grove, told the crowd.

Flake said the unincorporated areas of DeKalb have been “missing out” on increased representation, more focused services and economic development.

“If we do form a city, it’s a way to restore South DeKalb to the way it originally was,” said longtime DeKalb County resident and Greenhaven supporter Charlie Toliver. “We deserve some of the nice things too.”

“Our footprint has been very neglected by DeKalb County,” said Kelley McManaman, an Embry Hills resident and supporter of Vista Grove. “I don’t want to be chipped away and chopped up by other cities that are encroaching around us.

Andrew Flake, a board member for Vista Grove, speaks at a rally outside the Georgia Statehouse on Monday. (Photo: EMILY HANEY/EMILY.HANEY@AJC.COM)

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Kevin Polite, part of Neighbors Against Greenhaven, argued a new city would drive up costs, be poorly managed and fall victim to an incomplete economic development plan.

“The economic development plan that they have, or that they don’t have … just shows me that they haven’t done the work that needs to be performed if it ever becomes a city,” he said.

Opponents pointed out that for the past four years, Greenhaven has failed to get a bill passed. The area of Vista Grove was granted a referendum in 2015 under the name LaVista Hills, but narrowly failed on the ballot.

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