Does Georgia Need A Second Buckhead?

You may have heard of the effort to carve out the Buckhead area in the city of Atlanta and form a new city. As you might imagine, this is a controversial idea for a number of reasons. It’s complicated enough to form a new city, but for an area to secede from a city to form a new city is rare, and creates all sorts of complications that would likely wind up in court. At the very least, this effort could create bad blood in Georgia’s capitol city.

It should be pointed out Georgia already has a city named Buckhead. It’s in Morgan county and was incorporated in 1908. If the Buckhead in Atlanta movement continues, don’t be shocked if folks from that small town have something to say about the name of the new proposed city – it’s happened before. One of my favorite Legislative stories occurred during the debate over the then proposed city of Brookhaven. Folks from an area of Atlanta historically known as Brookhaven, objected to this proposed city being called Brookhaven. Consequently, as the legislation was being considered in the House Governmental Affairs committee, an amendment was introduced to make the name of the proposed city Ashford instead of Brookhaven….and the amendment passed (I voted against it for the record). The amendment was removed in the Senate and of course, Brookhaven is the name of the city today. However, folks in the Atlanta Buckhead shouldn’t be surprised if the existing town of Buckhead objects to a second Buckhead, GA.

The AJC had a story over the weekend about the proposed second Buckhead. It’s on their website today. Obviously, a city built around the wealthiest section of Atlanta would be financially viable. Obviously, crime, or fear of crime, is the major driving force behind this effort. However, a poll commissioned by the AJC showed…

Of the survey respondents living in Buckhead zip codes, nearly 54% strongly or somewhat support secession. Only 7% are undecided.

This slight majority support for a new city should give organizers pause.

During my time on the House Governmental Affairs committee, I was a part of several pieces of legislation to create new cities. Debates over new cities can be tense and anger among neighbors with differing views can boil over and cause division that lingers for years. I can also say from my observations, you don’t want to birth a new city with a slim victory in the referendum. Imagine being Mayor, or on the City Council of a new city which was barely approved by the voters? That’s not a recipe for local peace and harmony.

A solution to this dilemma would be to take a page from the referendum for the proposed city of Sharon Springs in south Forsyth county. The proposal was controversial there as well, so the Legislator carrying the legislation, not wanting to have city divided against itself from the get-go, decided to require a super-majority approval during the referendum. As I recall, that super-majority was set a 57%. The referendum failed, and while supporters were disappointed, they knew they didn’t have the strong support in the community needed to make a new city successful.

I would urge those pushing for the creation of a new Buckhead to require super-majority support for their referendum (assuming it gets to a vote of the people). There are so many issues dividing Atlantans presently, a controversial new city carved out of the existing city should only be approved by an overwhelming number of citizens.

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