ATLANTA — "Buckhead City" took a step toward becoming reality with a party-line vote in a state senate committee Monday. It came amid new criticism that the potential new city could strip assets from Atlanta at very low costs.
Imagine selling Chastain Park – one of the most valuable pieces of land in Atlanta – for pennies on the dollar of value. Critics said that’s what would happen if Buckhead becomes its own city.
Chastain Park would sell for a mere $100 per acre. A portion of the city of Atlanta’s water system would sell for $200,000. Among the many other pitfalls listed by critics of the Buckhead city movement is the bargain-basement prices Buckhead City would pay Atlanta to transfer valuable assets like Chastain.
"Billions of dollars have been invested into those systems to improve them and the city of Buckhead City would be able to get that for little to no dollars," said state Sen. Jason Estevez (D-Atlanta), who represents Buckhead in the state senate.
Estevez was among those who tried unsuccessfully Monday to stop a Senate committee from approving Buckhead City. Buckhead cityhood gained traction last year amid concerns about growing rates of violent crime in Atlanta. Sponsors of the measure in the legislature live outside of Atlanta. Their bill would allow residents to vote on whether to separate the wealthy community from Atlanta.
Bill sponsor Randy Robertson is from Columbus – and said Buckhead residents ought to be able to decide for themselves if they want to form their own city.
"Whatever they believe is right has the DNA of their particular community of what they feel should be done by their elected officials," Robertson told the Senate committee before the vote Monday.
If created, Buckhead City could also shut down a public safety training academy that’s 10 miles away from Buckhead.
Critics point to details in the legislation that would require Atlanta to divide and sell its property assets outside the city – include the sprawling, wooded site in south DeKalb slated for construction of a state of the art public safety training center.
"You have proponents of the bill saying there's a need for more public safety," Estevez said. "And you have proponents of that have drafted a bill that would prevent the city of Atlanta from building a public safety training center."
If Buckhead city were to pass it wouldn’t necessarily kill the public safety training center. But critics said the delay could go for months or longer.