The suspense is over.
Voters went to the polls Tuesday to select party nominees for federal, statewide and local offices for the Nov. 6 ballot, but the potential cityhood of Sharon Springs held the most intrigue for Forsyth County. If passed, the city would have had approximately 50,000 residents, dwarfing the county seat of Cumming (population 6,225 as of 2016) and potentially shifting the center of gravity in the county.
But voters said no — sort of.
Needing to meet a threshold of 57.5 percent, the final tally came up just short, with 54.53 percent of voters, 7,616 total votes, in favor.
The modern-day cityhood movement in the metro area started with Sandy Springs in 2004. Since then, the region has seen new cities incorporated in Johns Creek (2006), Milton (2006), Dunwoody (2008), Peachtree Corners (2011), Brookhaven (2012), Tucker (2015) and Stonecrest (2017), to name a few.
The idea of incorporating Sharon Springs began around 2014. A first swing at bringing the matter to voters in 2015 fell short due to a legal opinion on the proposed makeup of the city, and then Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 626 this past March to allow for a vote on incorporation.
Both sides on the issue took passionate stances.
Proponents of Sharon Springs expressed a desire for greater control over the destiny of their neighborhoods. What they see to be poorly managed growth, particularly during the mid-2000s when there was an explosion of high-density zoning as the county’s population grew rapidly, has led to overcrowded schools, traffic congestion and unbalanced development.
Opponents of Sharon Springs expressed fears that the creation of a new city would lead to the perceived cardinal sin of government: a tax increase. And why mess with a good thing when Forsyth County has gained state and nationwide acclaim for its affluent neighborhoods and overall quality of life.
At times, though, the public discourse escalated beyond passionate debate into something less civil. This was most evident on Facebook, our age’s “bastion” of “serious” discussion. Neighbors called each other liars, or worse.
But now there’s a chance to reset the tone.
Those who didn’t get their desired Sharon Springs city should renew their willingness to work with the county government on proposed solutions to their concerns.
And though the vote went against cityhood, it still provided an indication of a deep dissatisfaction from residents in that area, a dissatisfaction that shouldn’t be dismissed by local elected officials.
Ideally, those in positions of authority in the county government will give due consideration to the concerns expressed by advocates of cityhood, whether they be quantifiable or philosophical in nature. At the same time, those most passionate for the creation of a new city would do well to find ways to work within the framework of the county government, both practically and politically.
If those things don’t happen, we may be having a different version of this same debate at some point in the future.
As with any negotiation, no one’s going to get everything they want. But we expect our elected officials and those involved in the Sharon Springs community to make an effort to tackle these issues with civility for the good of everyone.
From the Forsyth County News editorial board.