HENRY COUNTY, Ga. -- Among the bills signed by Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday were SB 262 and SB 263 -- two measures that pave the way for the creation of the city of Eagle's Landing to be created. A portion of Eagle's Landing would be carved from a portion of the nearly 100-year-old city of Stockbridge.
City of Stockbridge
Stockbridge Mayor Anthony Ford
Stockbridge City Councilmember Alphonso Thomas
Stockbridge City Councilmember LaKeisha Gantt
Stockbridge City Councilmember Elton Alexander
Stockbridge City Councilmember John Blount
Stockbridge City Councilmember Neat Robinson
Eagle's Landing Educational Research Committee
ELERC chairwoman and organizer Vikki Consiglio
ELERC spokesman Richard Carter
What's going on
Senate Bill 262 provides for a new charter for the city of Stockbridge which revises the city's boundaries, deannexing a number of homes and businesses from Stockbridge, along with some 9,000 residents.
The measure operates in conjunction with Senate Bill 263, which is an act of incorporation for the city of Eagle's Landing. The city of Eagle's Landing would include within its boundaries the property deannexed from Stockbridge under SB 262. Additional land that was previously a part of unincorporated Henry County would also become part of the new city.
The 9,000 residents deannexed from Stockbridge would become citizens of Eagle's Landing, along with about 8,000 residents from unincorporated Henry County. An additional 3,500 residents of unincorporated Henry County would become citizens of the city of Stockbridge.
The measures together provide for a referendum on November's general election ballot which allows affected voters to make the final decision regarding the establishment of Eagle's Landing.
"The governor's signing of the bill yesterday already puts in force the deannexation portion of (Senate Bill) 262, pending what happens in November," said Stockbridge Community Development Services Director Camilla Moore. "Many of you have called and asked if the deannexation will be on the ballot in November and that (answer) is no. What will be on the ballot is the incorporation (of Eagle's Landing)."
Critics of the move say taking land from one city to form another is illegal, pointing at the means used to create the city of Eagle's Landing, specifically citing the involuntary nature of deannexation that took place as a result of the bills signed by Deal.
In February, the city of Stockbridge retained legal counsel in the event of a possible lawsuit in light of the bills being signed by the governor.
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Some critics of the new city's establishment point to racial reasons behind the creation of Eagle's Landing. The current demographic breakdown of residents in Stockbridge includes 29 percent white residents -- more than 32 percent of them of voting age; 56 percent of the residents of Stockbridge are black. About 53 percent of them of voting age.
The city of Eagle's Landing would be more racially diverse. About 39 percent of the residents would be white; 43 percent of them of voting age. The black population would be 44 percent, with an equal percentage -- 44 percent -- of voting age.
The median income of Stockbridge is about $58,000, which is slightly below the Henry County median of $60,000. The median income in the new city of Eagle's Landing is significantly higher at more than $128,000.
In a news conference Wednesday, Stockbridge city officials expressed their disappointment over the governor's signing of the legislation.
"I'm disappointed as well, especially after meeting with Gov. Deal," said Mayor Anthony Ford. "After asking him several times to veto the bills, and all the information the staff gave him in reference to the bond issue and deannexation process and the disenfranchising of citizens to vote on this issue in the first place -- I thought that would resonate with him and he would veto everything."
What comes next
The final word in all of this comes down to the voters. In the November referendum, the affected Stockbridge residents, along with the affected residents of unincorporated Henry County will be able to vote on the formal establishment of the city of Eagle's Landing.
If approved by voters, the city would be formally established on January 1, 2019.