Sharon Springs fell just short of reaching cityhood.
Those in favor of the city made up about 54 percent of the vote (7,616) and those opposed about 46 percent (6,351) on Tuesday. To pass, the city needed at least 57.5 percent of voters, a compromise between a simple majority and two-thirds majority.
District 25 state Rep. Todd Jones, who introduced House Bill 626, which provided the process for creating the proposed city, said the county needs to come together after the vote.
“I think it’s imperative that the first thing that we do is we do everything we can to bring the county together,” Jones said. “Whether or not you were on the ‘yes’ side or ‘no’ side, the fact of the matter is I think the vote tells us something. I think it’s something that we need to react to, but the first thing we need to do is really bring the county together.”
Jones said while the turnout wasn't high enough to create a new city, it showed there are concerns from those living in the area.
“Yes, it doesn’t cause a city to be created, but there are things that can be done to basically address some of the things that we were hearing from proponents of the city,” he said. “And I hope over the next couple of days and couple of weeks that meetings can be held, that we can have productive, constructive dialogue amongst everybody from within the county.”
District 25 state Senate candidate Greg Dolezal also said local leaders needed to address the concerns of residents and pointed out Sharon Springs would have passed most cityhood votes.
“I think this is the only cityhood vote that did not pass that got 54 percent in Georgia because traditionally there is a 50 percent vote,” Dolezal said. “There is a message in that, I think, to all of the leaders that we need to be better in that, and we need to figure out a better representation model than what we have today.”
The city was proposed with three services — zoning, sanitation and code enforcement — and a millage rate capped at 0.5 mills. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value, which is 40 percent of the actual market value.
The approximate boundaries of the proposed city were east of Ga. 400 except the portion west of McFarland Road; south of Hwy. 20 except for areas in the city of Cumming; west of the Chattahoochee River — already a boundary with Gwinnett County — and north of the Fulton County line.
About 50,000 people would have lived in the area of the proposed city.
The elected officials of Sharon Springs would have been made up of a mayor and six councilmembers, all of whom would have had to live in the city for at least a year prior. Of the six council seats, three would have been elected on a city-wide basis and three will be voted on by the majority of three proposed districts. The mayor will also be able to vote along with councilmembers. Both the mayor and council members would have been limited to “two full, consecutive four-year terms” in office.
On March 13, Gov. Nathan Deal approved House Bill 626, which provided the process for creating the city. The bill passed the state Senate by a 46-2 vote, with four members not voting, and passed the state House of Representatives by 159-3 vote, with 12 members not voting, on Feb. 8. All seven members of Forsyth County’s legislative delegation voted in favor of the bill.
In October, a 12-member committee made up of representatives from each commission and state legislative district recommended allowing voters living in the area of the proposed city to vote on cityhood. The push for cityhood is not the first time the city of Sharon Springs has been brought up locally.
In March 2015, a bill to move forward with cityhood was introduced by Jones’s predecessor, Mike Dudgeon.
At that time, those in favor of Sharon Springs contended the area had been misrepresented in terms of zoning, which is among the driving factors. Opponents voiced concerns about a possible higher tax burden.
The previous Sharon Springs Bill had been proposed as a “city light,” meaning the city could have just three services — zoning, sanitation and code enforcement. A legal opinion has since been given that the state constitution does not allow limiting the number of services, which was one reason for the original bill being pulled.
The new city was also debated heavily in the local community.
In April, a town hall was hosted by Jones featuring three panels of those in favor of the city, those opposed and a group of experts made up of UGA Professor Jeffery Dorfman and Mayor Mike Mason and City Attorney Bill Riley of Peachtree Corners, a city offering similar services as those in Sharon Springs and approved by voters to incorporate in 2011.
In January, a town hall was held by Forsyth County officials at the Forsyth Conference Center at Lanier Technical College and many attendees had to stand in the building’s lobby.
At that town hall, 50 speakers were allowed to sign up to give their input, though some left or chose not to speak at their time, and each speaker had two minutes to address a panel made up of Forsyth County department heads.