When Gov. Brian Kemp signed House Bill 445 into law May 10, it eliminated one of the last pieces of unincorporated land in Fulton County.
The bill allows a portion of the Fulton Industrial Boulevard area to be annexed into the city of South Fulton.
That leaves only the Fulton County Executive Airport at Brown Field land, which will remain unincorporated forever thanks to an agreement between the county and the state, and a small tract near the airport, which will be annexed into the city of Atlanta soon, as Fulton’s remaining unincorporated pieces of land.
Over the past 15.5 years, starting with Sandy Springs, other unincorporated parts of the county have become cities of their own. Johns Creek, Milton, Chattahoochee Hills and South Fulton followed, with South Fulton incorporating in 2016. Robb Pitts, the Fulton Board of Commissioners’ chair, said the Legislature approved similar bills to annex the Fulton Industrial area into the city of South Fulton, but then-Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed them in 2017 and 2018.
“We had no role in it, but it does get us out of the business of provided city services now, so we can focus on mandated services,” Pitts said of county-only services such as libraries, health and senior centers.
According to a news release, the Fulton Industrial area just annexed has more than 1,000 businesses with about 28,000 employees. South Fulton Mayor William “Bill” Edwards said the area, which stretches across about eight miles, has about 500 residents living there.
He said the city has eyed the Fulton Industrial area for as long as the city has existed, adding the feasibility study South Fulton completed as part of its requirements for incorporation did not include that land.
The area previously had also been called the South Fulton Special Services District, a name given to it to comply with a state law that requires counties to spend tax revenue it took from its unincorporated portions on those parts of the county.
“The people of South Fulton are very excited about the land coming to the city,” Edwards said. “… In the special services district, the taxes were paid by these same citizens for 10 or 12 years. What it boils down to is they’ve had something returned to them that they rightfully owned.”
The mayor said the city is working with the county to make sure all finances regarding the Fulton Industrial area, which generates $9 million in annual tax revenue, transfer to South Fulton.
“When things like this come, it also brings in special needs, and we as a city understand those special needs and are ready to supply the type of service delivery that is warranted by that location,” he said. “However, there are some financial obligations that were handled by Fulton County, and we want to make sure those financial obligations come along with the land. So we’re engaging in conversations that the taxes have a smooth transition.”
Edwards added he hopes the Fulton Industrial area’s tax revenue will help “ease the burden off the homeowners in terms of doing service delivery.”