Stockbridge says Eagle’s Landing cityhood violates Voting Rights Act

Cityhood for Eagle's Landing would violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause, the city of Stockbridge claims in a federal lawsuit to halt the November referendum.

Filed late Monday, the litigation says allowing the largely white residential neighborhoods of Eagle’s Landing — a country club community in Stockbridge’s south end — to form their own city would dilute and disenfranchise African-American voters.

Black residents currently make up 53 percent of the Henry County city’s electorate, attorneys for Stockbridge said at a news conference Tuesday. But if Eagle’s Landing becomes a town, they would see their electoral numbers reduced to about 43 percent — essentially equal to their white counterparts.

“That is not right,” attorney Christopher Anulewicz said. “It violates the equal protection clause to the United States Constitution. It violates the federal voting rights laws that were enacted in the 1960s. This type of behavior has been precluded since the inception of our republic.”

Backers of cityhood for Eagle’s Landing have refuted claims they are motivated by a desire to diminish black electoral strength. Vikki Consiglio, an architect of the movement who plans to run for mayor if Eagle’s Landing becomes a city, has said cityhood supporters come from all backgrounds.

"It's a smoke screen," she has said of race charges.

The city of Stockbridge filed a lawsuit Monday to halt the November referendum to create Eagle’s Landing. Stockbridge says the effort violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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Stockbridge's lawsuit — its second effort to halt the Nov. 6 vote — comes just days after the holder of most of Stockbridge's municipal bonds filed a federal lawsuit to stop the referendum because of concerns over loan payments.

Capital One Public Funding — the municipal bond arm of New York-based bank giant Capital One — said the Georgia Legislature failed to create a mechanism for the new city to address the financial obligations of former Stockbridge residents. Eagle's Landing would be created in part by taking over about half of Stockbridge, which would be de-annexed — the first time a Georgia city will lose part of its territory to form another.

“The de-annexation acts fail to attach to the land and property that will be de-annexed from Stockbridge and annexed into Eagle’s Landing any of the financial obligations secured by the lost Stockbridge tax base,” the bond issuer wrote in its lawsuit, which was filed Friday.

Stockbridge, which included concerns about the bond repayments in its lawsuit, said the city could lose about $4.2 million in revenues annually because of diminished taxable property and lead to default.

“If the proposed de-annexation occurs … the city of Stockbridge will be forced to repay its outstanding bond debt with substantially less tax revenue, thereby increasing the probability the city of Stockbridge will default on its contractual obligations to its bondholders and diminishing the city of Stockbridge’s bond credit rating to the benefit of the city of Eagle’s Landing,” Stockbridge said in the suit.

“They will be saddled with that debt without the ability to pay,” Anulewicz said.