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Georgia > Legislation to alter Municipal Borders in Doubt

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Senator Fran Millar, presenting the LaVista Hills legislation, takes a question from Senator Elena Parent. AJC Photo

ATLANTA — The state Senate approved bills Wednesday that alter the borders of the proposed cities of LaVista Hills and Tucker, setting up a clash with the House of Representatives that could jeopardize both measures’ chances of passing.

Unless the House and Senate agree and pass bills with the same boundaries by the end of this year’s legislative session April 2, neither will move ahead toward a November referendum on incorporating the areas.

“It’s quite possible, if there’s not an agreement, the bills will die,” said Sen. Fran Millar, R-Atlanta, who supported the border changes. “I don’t think there’s an appetite to deal with this any further.”

Similar disputes over boundaries sunk cityhood efforts during last year’s legislative session. The proposed cities of Tucker, Lakeside and Briarcliff didn’t clear the House because of arguments over what areas belonged in which city. Last fall, Lakeside and Briarcliff joined forces to seek the combined city of LaVista Hills.

Now that the Senate passed its versions of the cities’ borders, the House can either accept or reject the amendments. If the House turns down the Senate’s changes, a conference committee could be formed in an effort to find a compromise.

Rep. Billy Mitchell, the sponsor of the Tucker bill, said he won’t support the Senate’s changes.

“The House is never going to agree to those borders,” said Mitchell, D-Stone Mountain. “But I don’t think it will be as difficult to work out as it was last year.”

A House subcommittee brokered a compromise between LaVista Hills and Tucker in December after the two sides failed to agree on boundaries on their own. The chairman of that subcommittee, Rep. Buzz Brockway, said at the time the intent was to “set in stone” their shared borders.

“The crisis continues,” said Brockway, R-Lawrenceville. “If a conference committee is formed, I want both sides to feel they’re treated fairly. … Patience for this issue among those who don’t live in the area is wearing thin.”

Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, said she was worried that the cityhood bills won’t pass because of the ongoing disagreements. She sought an amendment on the Senate floor Wednesday to remove Medlock and Mason Mill from LaVista Hills, but her effort failed.

“There could be an opportunity to get those borders changed in conference committee,” Parent said.

The LaVista Hills measure, House Bill 520, passed the Senate on a 38-5 vote, and Tucker’s legislation, House Bill 515, was approved 41-1.

A city of LaVista Hills would stretch from an area outside Emory University to the eastern perimeter of I-285 and include roughly 67,000 residents.

A city of Tucker would be home to about 33,000 residents, mostly located to the east of the interstate.

One other proposed city appears to be moving forward. The Senate passed a measure Tuesday for a city of Stonecrest in South DeKalb, which would include 50,000 residents and border the city of Lithonia along I-20.

The legislation, Senate Bill 208, was approved on a 45-1 vote and is now pending in the House.

Atlanta Journal Constitution