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Smyrna annexation could make it largest Cobb city, but stymie Mableton

January 6, 2020 Smyrna: Smyrna City Hall is seen during the City Council meeting on Monday, January 6, 2020, in Smyrna.  Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com
January 6, 2020 Smyrna: Smyrna City Hall is seen during the City Council meeting on Monday, January 6, 2020, in Smyrna. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Smyrna is exploring whether to annex four areas around the city that would more than double its size and increase its population to 92,000 people.

But some residents in Mableton, where the largest of the four areas studied for annexation is located, fear that if Smyrna approves the annexation, it could cripple an effort underway to make Mableton its own city.

The fiscal impact study conducted earlier this year by Georgia State University’s Center for State and Local Finance reviewed whether it was financially feasible for the city to annex just under 9.8 square miles of land.

View the fiscal impact study here

Areas under consideration include unincorporated land bordered by I-285 and the Chattahoochee River to the east, Veterans Memorial Parkway in Mableton to the south, Nickajack and Queens creeks to the west and pockets of land along Windy Hill Road to the north.


MapSee the areas that may be annexed


Mayor Derek Norton said the city has been courted by some residents who have “expressed a desire to have a Smyrna address.”

“We’ve been approached by several neighboring communities wanting to be part of the city,” he said.

The study notes the areas annexed would generate about $22.8 million in revenue annually and require $23.6 million in expenditures for city services. According to the study, Smyrna in 2017 had 56,685 residents. If the areas under consideration were to be annexed, the city’s population would swell to 92,784. That would make Smyrna the largest city in Cobb, easily surpassing Marietta and the unincorporated communities of East Cobb and Mableton.

But Smyrna's ambitions of growth could stymie Mableton's hope to become incorporated as a new citySmyrna's annexation study was released in March, right around the same time a study conducted by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia for a proposed city of Mableton indicated it could be financially feasible for the area to incorporate.

READStudy shows proposed city of Mableton is financially feasible

For Keylan Mitchell, a Mableton resident and board member of South Cobb Alliance, he isn’t surprised that Smyrna would “want to annex” parts of South Cobb. The Mableton area is rapidly growing and “they see it as a positive for the city of Smyrna.”

However, he said the area Smyrna studied has higher home values and households with higher incomes than the Mableton community farther west. Mitchell said Mableton residents who live in the study area need to ask themselves if annexation would mean an improvement in services.

“What would be the cost in taxes for those benefits?” he asked. “I just want the public to be engaged and educated on the various proposals because they will potentially impact their quality of life and governance of the area.”

Smyrna Community Development Director Russell Martin said the study was one of the pieces that came out of the city’s Comprehensive Plan Update completed in 2017. The plan identifies short- and long-term projects the city would like to achieve. Part of that plan is annexing unincorporated islands and areas in the city where, for example, one side of the street is in Smyrna and the other resides in unincorporated Cobb County.

Once the push for incorporating the proposed city of Mableton grew louder, Martin said the city took the step to pay the Center for State and Local Finance $45,000 to get the study completed.

“They were just looking at their options,” he said of former Mayor Max Bacon and the City Council during his tenure.

READSmyrna is Cobb's fastest-growing city, U.S. Census report says

Norton said the report will be discussed at 6 p.m. June 11 during the council’s Committee of the Whole work session, and he will appoint a committee to review the study and bring back recommendations on how Smyrna should proceed.

Fellow South Cobb Alliance member Galt Porter said he believes Smyrna’s plans would “fracture the community of Mableton.”

Smyrna’s annexation plan would take only select parts of the Mableton community and leave the rest behind, Porter said, but the plan for a new city of Mableton “would bring in the whole city.”

Norton said he has not heard any concerns about the impact on Mableton if Smyrna moves ahead with annexing the areas to the south. He also said no recommendations have been made on how to proceed, but said he’s not surprised that some people have inquired about joining the city limits.

“Smyrna is a vibrant city,” he said. “I’m not surprised that there’s a lot of interest in being part of what we are doing here.”

ajc.com

Credit: Graphic by AJC

Credit: Graphic by AJC