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South Forsyth lawmaker introduces bill for township model of government
Constitutional amendment could reopen door for Sharon Springs

SOUTH FORSYTH — A state lawmaker who represents south Forsyth introduced a bill Wednesday during the 2016 Georgia General Assembly that proposes a township form of government be allowed throughout Georgia.

District 25 state Rep. Mike Dudgeon filed House Resolution 1051, a proposed constitutional amendment, as an option to offer more local control.

The move comes after his bill for a proposed city of Sharon Springs was withdrawn earlier this month.

The exact framework of a township in Georgia wasn’t immediately defined. But in a statement, Dudgeon said the state “needs a township model where local citizens can vote to create a community and exercise zoning authority without taking on the services and tax burdens of a full city.”

“I think that, should the General Assembly and the voters approve this amendment, that it is the best path for my community to pursue in the future,” he said.

A proposed city of Sharon Springs was introduced in the state legislature last year as House Bill 660.  Pitched as a “city light,” it would have had a maximum millage rate of .5 mills and offered three services — zoning, sanitation and code enforcement.

The area in question covers land east of Ga. 400, south of Hwy. 20, west of the Chattahoochee River and north of the Fulton County line. It encompasses an estimated 50,000 people, or about a quarter of Forsyth’s population.

Those in favor of Sharon Springs, most notably members of the nonprofit Sharon Springs Alliance, contend the area has been underrepresented in zoning and planning.

Opponents have aired concerns about higher taxes and a possible burden to the rest of the county.

Recent legal opinions have cast doubt on the constitutionality of a city being limited in services or taxes, Dudgeon said, leading the seven-member local delegation to withdraw HB 660.

If passed, this township model could be applied to the Sharon Springs area.

Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, a Republican from nearby Milton, also commented on Dudgeon’s new bill.

“As a former representative of the south Forsyth area and a driving force behind the north Fulton cities, I believe a township model would be a good thing for Georgia to adopt,” she said. “It could be the right answer to allow Sharon Springs residents to self-determine their future quality of life.”

According to Dudgeon, state Sen. William Ligon, a Republican from Brunswick, also plans to introduce the township amendment in the Senate this week.