Georgia Senate backs bill to create new city of Eagle’s Landing

Henry County residents hoping to create a new city got one step closer after the Senate approved measures Thursday that put the decision before voters.

The legislation that would carve out a southern portion of Stockbridge and unincorporated areas of Henry County to create a new city of Eagle’s Landing, with vastly different racial demographics drew several hours of debate before being approved.

State Sen. Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, who guided Senate Bill 262 and Senate Bill 263 through the chamber, said residents seeking the change have requested cityhood for the past few years, conducting studies and holding town hall meetings to discuss its feasibility.

Both measures were approved with most Republicans backing it, but the Senate will consider the issue again Tuesday.

The bills would allow residents in the area that would become the city of Eagle’s Landing to vote to form the municipality.

“The people who are directly effected by this get to control their own destiny,” Strickland said.

Opponents of the bill say the process of “de-annexing” a portion of a city to create a new one is unprecedented.

Stockbridge is a predominately black city.

State Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Ellenwood, who represents most of Stockbridge, said of the city's registered voters, about 61 percent of them are black and 18 percent are white. He said the proposed city of Eagle's Landing would have demographics of about 44 percent black and 43 percent white residents.

He and other Democrats who spoke against the bill said they believe residents’ desire to form their own city is racially motivated.

“I don’t want you to think I’m using race as a crutch, because I’m big enough to stand on my own,” he said. “But we don’t expect the playing field to be stacked against us.

“We don’t expect those who have the majority party to tell the minorities what and how their city should look.”

State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said the move would set a bad precedent. She said approving the bills would create an opportunity for other municipalities to decide to remove portions of their cities that they don't want.

“This is bad policy, and it’s bad policy because you are creating cultural wars,” she said.

Stockbridge elected officials also have opposed the move, saying it will take about half of the municipality's tax base, forcing the local government to raise taxes on those who remain.


THE STORY SO FAR

Previously: Proponents have been pushing for Eagles Landing, a collection of neighborhoods and a golf course in Henry County, to break away from Stockbridge and become a city.

The latest: The Senate approved two pieces of legislation Thursday that would put the decision before the voters.

What’s next: Both measures now go to the House. If approved there, residents in the area that would become the city of Eagle’s Landing will vote on whether to form the municipality.