Advance voting for the May 22 Republican and Democratic party primaries starts on Monday, though the most contentious issue to be decided in the primary has nothing to do with either party.
The fate of the proposed city of Sharon Springs will be decided along with the primary. In recent years, the proposed city has been a hot-button issue in Forsyth County, generally with supporters saying the new city would give more control to those living in the area and those opposed feeling the city could lead to higher taxes in the county.
Here’s a look back at what led up to this point:
After it passed the Georgia General Assembly, Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 626, which provides the process for creating the proposed city, on March 12.
To pass, the bill will need the support of at least 57.5 percent of voters, a compromise between a simple majority and two-thirds majority.
The bill allowing for the cityhood vote was previously approved by members of the state House of Representatives by a 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.
If approved, Sharon Springs would begin with three services — zoning, sanitation and code enforcement — and would have 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 are 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.
The city would be home to about 50,000 residents.
The proposed city is not a new issue in Forsyth County.
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.
A number of town halls have been held recently related to the proposed city.
On Thursday, 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.
Though not focused on Sharon Springs, the proposed city also came up in discussions during an open house meeting in January hosted by officials representing south Forsyth. More than 100 people were in attendance at the meeting at Brookwood Elementary School.
Earlier this month, the Forsyth County News hosted a non-scientific survey on our website to gauge public support for the city.
Per the results of the data, the majority living in the area of the city were not in favor of cityhood.
Of the 778 responders, 516 lived in the area of the proposed city, meaning they would be able to vote in favor of the city. Of those living in the area, 253 responders (about 49 percent) said they planned to vote against the cityhood proposal. Conversely, 212 responders (about 41 percent) living in the area said they planned to vote in favor of the new city.
For those living in the area, 49 (about 10 percent) said they were unsure of which way they were going to vote.
For all responses, which includes 246 who do not live in the area of the proposed city along with those who do, 225 felt the city would increase taxes for those living in Sharon Springs; 28 said they thought the city would result in increased taxes for only those outside the area; 330 people said they felt it would increase taxes for everyone in the county; 124 said they felt it will result in no tax increases; and 68 people said they did not know if it would result in a tax increase.