State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver filed a bill in the state legislature Monday that she said allows residents in the Druid Hills and Briarcliff areas to discuss and study cityhood over the next year – the first official step toward creating a new city.
Oliver's bill, HB 665, does not include a map of a proposed city, and it's short – about two sentences. It does not name a specific area, including Druid Hills, and says it intends only to create a city in DeKalb County. Oliver, D-Decatur, said she did not want to specify an area because she didn't want to limit options. She has been a critic of cityhood movements and new incorporation, particularly in nearby Brookhaven, but said she didn't want her constituents to be "buffaloed into a new city or feel like they've been left behind."
"It’s really for my constituents over in Druid Hills and Briarcliff," Oliver said in a phone interview with Patch. "It will, in essence, be under my control."
The bill could not be considered by the General Assembly until next year. Oliver said she wanted to level the playing field between residents in her district and the Lakeside City Alliance, which seeks to file its own placeholder bill in the legislature. The most recent proposed cityhood map from the alliance would stretch from North Druid Hills Road north to the Mercer University area and east across I-285 to western Tucker.
Placeholder cityhood bills start a two-year process to cityhood. They must be filed a year before the legislature can consider them and include a state-mandated feasibility study by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia that costs roughly $30,000. (Thursday is the final day of this year's legislative session.)
One group, The North Druid Hills Study Group headed by former DeKalb County Planning Commission member Don Broussard, has already proposed a City of Briarcliff that would stretch from the Mercer University area south to Atlanta and Decatur's boundaries in Druid Hills. Broussard said Monday he would have preferred a bill that referenced his study group map as a starting point and fears that cityhood groups such as the Lakeside alliance, supported by a more specific bill, will have a fundraising advantage.
“We’re still studying Mary Margaret Oliver's bill, and we’re a little surprised by it and a little disappointed in it. It is not similar to other previous bills that initiated previous city incorporations, and it seems to create a free-for-all in the coming year with no guidance to us," he said. “The bill seems to reflect her ambivilance toward creating new cities. She’s definitely leading from behind on this.”
Oliver said she isn't leading a cityhood movement and seeks only to allow her constituents to choose their own direction.
"I'm not going to finance it or staff it," she said. "I think that the city of Brookhaven really destabilized DeKalb County in my area, and the discussions about cityhood in the Lakeside area are unnerving my constituents."