SOUTH FORSYTH — A local lawmaker has introduced a bill in the Georgia General Assembly that will initiate the process for creating a city in south Forsyth, a move made about three weeks after results of an independent study deemed the county’s potential second municipality feasible.
Though House Bill 660 will be read in this year’s legislative session, it cannot be approved until the 2016 session, according to District 25 state Rep. Mike Dudgeon.
The standard cityhood process requires legislation for a new city be introduced a year before it can be considered for a vote. Under that timeframe, and provided the voters agree, the earliest the city could begin operating would be 2017.
“I want to have a robust debate over the pros and cons of a new city for the rest of this year before making a final decision to push the bill when we return for the next legislative session in January of 2016,” Dudgeon said.
Dudgeon represents District 25, which spans much of south Forsyth — an area that Sharon Springs would encompass — and portions of Fulton County.
The approximate boundaries of the proposed city are east of Ga. 400, south of Hwy. 20, west of the Chattahoochee River — already a county boundary — and north of the Fulton County line. As proposed, the population would be roughly 50,000 residents.
“The families and businesses of south Forsyth County are one step closer toward greater local control, allowing us to chart our own course to address overdevelopment, increased traffic and school overcrowding,” said Phillip Barlag, chairman of the Sharon Springs Alliance, a nonprofit that supports cityhood.
“Most importantly, this allows the residents of south Forsyth to tackle these problems without the need to raise property taxes.”
Though two of his Republican colleagues in Forsyth’s state legislative delegation held town hall meetings with Dudgeon last fall to gauge public opinion on the city, he was the lone sponsor at the bill’s introduction.
“We have discussed this idea for several months, and based on the positive results from the Carl Vinson [Institute at the University of Georgia] survey, I have decided to begin this legislative process,” Dudgeon said.
The study examined similarly sized municipalities in the area to help determine whether Sharon Springs could be fiscally feasible.
“I am especially encouraged that the study showed no property tax would be necessary to fund the city,” Dudgeon said.
Dudgeon’s guest column in the Forsyth County News last summer led to the town hall meetings. In addition, the Sharon Springs Alliance raised $26,000 needed for the third-party feasibility study.
In the column, Dudgeon questioned whether the current plan to manage growth in Forsyth’s south end was sustainable and leaving area residents content with their local governance.
If passed by the General Assembly in next year’s legislative session, HB 660 could go before voters who live within the potential city’s boundaries in a referendum on May 24, 2016.
If voters approve the proposed city, an election for city council and mayor likely would be held on Nov. 8, 2016, and Sharon Springs would begin operations on Jan. 1, 2017.
What has been proposed for Sharon Springs is a “city light” format. That means it would be limited to a maximum millage rate of 0.5 mills and would be responsible only for zoning, sanitation and code enforcement.
Voter approval would be required to expand services to roads, parks or other items.