A so-called "placeholder bill" that would start the two-year process of creating a new city around the Lakeside High School area will be filed "very soon" with the state legislature, the Lakeside City Alliance said Tuesday.
Speaking before several hundred residents at Briarlake Baptist Church, the alliance's chairman, Mary Kay Woodworth, didn't offer a timeline for the filing of the bill, which would wait until next year to be considered by the legislature.
The alliance is investigating the creation of the newest municipality in northern DeKalb County. Under new proposed boundaries released Monday night, the city of Lakeside would reach south to North Druid Hills Road, including the Toco Hill commercial corridor. It would cross I-285 to include west Tucker and Northlake, north to include Mercer University and its western boundary would be I-85.
The alliance would need to find the support of a local legislator to file the bill. Dunwoody state Sen. Fran Millar said he may do it. Once the bill is filed, it could be altered over the next year before the legislature considers it. If passed, the cityhood issue would go before residents for a vote.
The Briarlake Baptist meeting consisted mostly of a question and answer session with local residents. A number of residents expressed concerns about tax increases if a new city was created, and organizers with the alliance said that ideally would not happen. A state-mandated feasibility study from the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia would offer clear answers on that question, however. The alliance is currently raising money to pay for that study, which costs about $30,000.
"There shouldn't need to be an increase in taxes," said Robert Wittenstein, a former Dunwoody city councilman who helped organize the creation of that city in 2008.
If the study reveals that a tax increase would be needed to sustain a city, the issue would likely be dead on arrival, he said. Though he added that he expects the study will suggest cityhood is feasible due to the economic stability of the Lakeside area.
Though the alliance has said repeatedly they are not advocating cityhood and exist only to gauge interest and investigate the issue, several alliance organizers said they believed a city would allow residents in the Lakeside area to better control some services. Steve Schultz, one of the alliance's organizers, said a city of Lakeside could improve police services. Many residents complained about the DeKalb County Police Department's response to frequent, non-violent crimes such as auto break-ins.
"I think that they're currently overwhelmed," Schultz said.
County District 5 Commissioner Lee May, who watched the meeting with the audience, said the department could use about 500 more officers.
Susan Meyers, another alliance organizer, said outright she wants a new city in the Lakeside area. The county government wastes too much and offers too little, she said.
"People who govern locally govern best," she said.
Some residents expressed skepticism with cityhood, particularly with the idea that another layer of local government could make up for frustrations caused by county, state and federal governments.
"Why in God's name would I want another level [of government]?" one man said.
Alliance organizers have repeatedly said a city government would give residents community-level representatives rather than one or two county commissioners who operate from downtown Decatur.
"It gives you an opportunity not to distrust from a distance," Wittenstein said.
Other residents asked the alliance to slow its pursuit of cityhood. Jim Smith, a Clairmont Heights resident, suggested a 12-month moratorium on the issue so residents could try and work to "fix" the county government.
"It's easier to fix the problem than to change the problem," a woman added.