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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Three Mile Island

Three Mile Island

In 1965 the Georgia General Assembly, in its infinite wisdom, enacted a law that required a three mile separation between the city limits of any new city and the city limits of any currently existing city.  The immediate effect of this law was to prevent the creation of any city anywhere in the Atlanta Metro area.

There were several reasons behind this law. First, the City of Atlanta had been eyeing, ever since its last major expansion in 1952, the growing suburbs of north Fulton County, specifically the unincorporated community of Sandy Springs. Secondly, Fulton and DeKalb Counties had been growing in political power along with their growing suburbs, and they had become very protective of that power. So, with one blow, this law protected the future annexation interests of the City of Atlanta, and gave the two county governments an easy means to shut down any discussion of creating any new city.

This law was also partially in response to the creation of the City of Chattahoochee Plantation in 1961.  This city was 10 feet wide (yes, TEN FEET!) and 7 miles long, along the shoreline of the Chattahoochee River in Cobb County. Chattahoochee Plantation was created solely for the purpose of preventing the City of Atlanta from annexing any portion of Cobb County.  The City never organized a city government and its charter was revoked in 1995 along with many others for its lack of any city services.

This law prevented the creation of the City of Sandy Springs until it was revoked by a newly dominant Republican majority in the Georgia General Assembly in 2005. Atlanta failed in a referendum  held for the area in 1966, and was denied direct annexation in the early 1970's. Residents first expressed interest in forming a city in 1975, and the first bill aimed at creating Sandy Springs was first filed in the General Assembly in 1989. (It was no coincidence that their interest in creating a city came one year after the election of Maynard Jackson as the first African-American mayor of Atlanta.) A new bill was filed in every subsequent legislative session until 2005. Every bill was defeated by a coalition of Atlanta and Fulton local and state politicians, fearing a loss of power and revenue.

In the last legislative session House Bill 692, filed by Rep. Pam Stephenson (D), Atlanta, proposed restoring this 3 mile requirement separating new cities from existing cities. A Hail Mary throw by a south DeKalb legislator designed to prevent the burgeoning city movement in DeKalb County, this law was dead the moment it was filed, given that the Republican legislators had killed the 1965 provision in 2005.

The following is a map of north central DeKalb County illustrating the effect this law would have on the possibility of creating any new city in the area. Only a small area on the north east side of the Tucker community would have met this requirement, highlighted here in red.

3 Mile Islands

1 comment:

  1. This is a powerful visual and really helps frame what could happen to cityhood talks in DeKalb if this proposal was to move forward in 2014. As you can tell there's not alot of area left untouched.