The town tried to dissolve itself in 2001, and for a short time succeeded, when two residents sued, claiming that the city didn't provide enough services. But a counter lawsuit by a resident forced the city to be reinstated in 2002, when this photo of the city hall was taken. “I guess we did it the wrong way,” says Kenneth Waycaster, Rest Haven's mayor since 1988, and proponent of the city's dissolution. (LAURA NOEL / AJC file)
Photo: Laura Noel
Photo: Laura Noel

What's the deal with Rest Haven, Gwinnett's most reluctant city?

Yes, Gwinnettians, Rest Haven is a city in your fine county — but it may not be much longer.

And that’s just fine with them.

Rest Haven — population 35, at last check — was established on the Hall-Gwinnett county line in 1938, reportedly as part of an attempt to force an unwanted “honky-tonk” out of the area. Nowadays, the mile-long, mostly bleak stretch along Buford Highway is completely landlocked by the city of Buford, a town it has a great affinity for.

“It’s a great city,” longtime Rest Haven mayor Kenneth Waycaster told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year. “Show me one any better.”

In fact, Rest Haven wants to become a part of Buford. And that’s where things get complicated.

The legal stuff

Last year, State Sen. Renee Unterman introduced successful legislation to annex Rest Haven’s eastern half into the city of Buford. The vote passed unanimously in the Senate, and 114-44 in the House.

Unterman hasn’t yet filed legislation to cover the other half, but a legal notice published recently in the Gwinnett Daily Post — the county’s legal organ — made it clear she intends to this session, which ends March 24.

Unterman was a Gwinnett County commissioner in the 1990s. Last year, she told the AJC that Rest Haven was known at the time for bootleggers and “houses of ill repute.”

She could not be reached for comment Monday.

The previous push

This isn’t Rest Haven’s first push to kill itself off.

In 2001, superior court judges dissolved the city after two residents filed suit, arguing that Rest Haven didn’t provide “required services” (which the city agreed about).  But, as the AJC’s Arielle Kass previously reported:  

Eddy Robinson, whose grandfather was a city founder, sued to keep the city intact, arguing that it provided enough services to keep its charter. Rest Haven had no zoning laws, and Robinson wanted to develop his property with fewer restrictions than he would find in the counties, or in Buford. He won, and the town was reinstated in 2002. But the apartments he talked about then were never built.”

The Buford side of things

Buford, for its part, has been always been receptive. Many Rest Haven residents have already voluntarily annexed their properties into the city in recent years, and most of the town's children already attend Buford City Schools. 

If Rest Haven is formally added, Buford has also agreed to deal with its eyesores, Unterman has previously said. 

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