East Cobb cityhood virtual forum 4

East Cobb cityhood advocate Craig Chapin, top, said others interested in cityhood “unilaterally were all about, ‘We want police and fire to be included.’”

In March, when advocates unveiled a brand-new plan for the proposed city of East Cobb, it looked far different than the plan they had tried, and failed, to advance in late 2019: the would-be city was much smaller, with only 50,000 people within its proposed boundaries, and it no longer included police and fire departments as city-run services.

Eight months later, the police and fire departments are back in. During a virtual town hall this month, advocates said it was a matter of popular demand.

“Very clearly, people that are supportive of the city of East Cobb unilaterally were all about, ‘We want police and fire to be included, why isn’t that one of the initial services that were offered?’” said Craig Chapin, a member of the Committee for East Cobb Cityhood.

The committee is one of four organizations in Cobb trying to turn its part of the county into a city and, in turn, wrest control of land use decisions from the county’s five-member governing board.

Like those pursuing cityhood in west Cobb and Vinings, members of the Committee for East Cobb Cityhood say they’re motivated by a desire to limit high-density development in their community. (On the other hand, a fourth cityhood movement, in Mableton, hopes a new city there would have better luck encouraging development in the area.)

The committee’s recent town hall was organized to discuss the findings of a feasibility study that found the proposed city of East Cobb would run a budget surplus with a lower property tax rate than Cobb County’s.

The feasibility study assumed the city would offer four services: police, fire, planning and zoning and code enforcement. In including police and fire, the study’s authors, at the behest of the committee, moved parks and recreation — one of the three services that had initially been proposed in March — to the study’s appendix.

In addition to it having been requested by people interested in cityhood, Chapin said the committee had included a police and fire department after being encouraged to do so by officials in other new-ish cities in metro Atlanta, though he did not explain why those officials had given such advice.

He also pointed to a recent study by the Atlanta Regional Commission, which found that crime was the most important issue on the minds of Cobb residents.

“It does make sense why so many people that we talked to and all the community feedback, literally over the last two, three, four months, (was), ‘We want police and fire, we want police and fire, we want police and fire,” he said.

Chapin said during the town hall a question had repeatedly come up in the wake of the feasibility study’s release.

“Aren’t you a full city? Isn’t this a full-blown initiative?” he said, quoting people who’d noticed the shift from offering parks to a police and fire department. “We would still call it … a city-lite model,” he continued, noting the city of East Cobb would still only provide a handful of services out of a potential 16.

“We’re still part of Cobb County, proud of Cobb County,” he said.

For a proposed city to become a reality, it must be approved in a referendum by those who live within its boundaries.

Before that can happen, however, the state legislature must pass a bill putting the referendum on voters’ ballots.

State Rep. Matt Dollar, R-east Cobb, filed such a bill earlier this year. During the virtual town hall, Dollar said he did not expect the boundaries of the proposed city to change in any substantial way before being voted on by the legislature.

One viewer asked why the city’s boundaries did not exactly follow those of area schools’ attendance zones.

“They are very confusing and not always very concise,” Dollar said. “If we were to draw a cityhood map that would look like the school attendance zones, I think the criticism, just based on the shape, would be pretty great.”

Cindy Cooperman, another committee member, said the formation of a city of east Cobb would have no impact on area schools.

The state legislature will consider Dollar’s bill, co-sponsored by state Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-east Cobb, at the beginning of the next legislative session in January. If approved, a referendum is expected to go before residents of the proposed city of East Cobb in 2022.


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(4) comments

David Jones

Feels like corruption from the beginning. Maybe I'm wrong or thinking too much into it.

richard plent

This is a Trojan horse to bring high rise apartments to Johnson Ferry. These developers lie at every turn

Krista Hannafey

This is nothing but a political power grab. Bad idea all around.

William Hicks

Beginning to look like a "bait and switch". Supposedly the city of East Cobb was going to control zoning, with the idea of curtailing big projects, to keep the area like it is now. Also to enhance and add parks to this area. This is the first I have heard of them wanting police and fire. This sounds just like what they are trying to leave and might be a good reason to vote no.

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