ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday declined to stop voting in a referendum on whether a new city of Eagle’s Landing should be created from part of the existing city of Stockbridge.
The General Assembly passed two acts that were signed by the governor earlier this year to create Eagle’s Landing from land that is currently part of Stockbridge combined with unincorporated parts of Henry County. The proposed city’s creation must be approved by local voters, but Stockbridge residents who live outside the boundaries of the proposed city won’t get a say.
Opponents, including the Stockbridge mayor, say creation of a new city would take a significant amount of city’s land and tax revenue and harm the Stockbridge’s ability to pay municipal bond obligations.
Proponents of a new city say they want to secure better city services, increase property values and attract high-end businesses. But opponents say race is a factor. About 20 miles (30 kilometers) southeast of Atlanta, Stockbridge is predominantly black, while the city of Eagle’s Landing would have a higher proportion of white residents.
Stockbridge sued the Henry County elections director and members of the county commission and asked a judge to declare that the acts setting up the referendum violated the state Constitution. The judge declined, and the city appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, which heard arguments in the case last week.
Lawyers for Stockbridge argued the acts violate the state Constitution’s prohibition on legislation that “refers to more than one subject matter or contains matter different from what is expressed in the title thereof.”
One of the two acts provides for the incorporation of Eagle’s Landing and doesn’t mention Stockbridge even though it takes that city’s land, while the second draws new boundaries for Stockbridge but doesn’t mention Eagle’s Landing, they point out.
Lawyers for supporters of the creation of Eagle’s Landing argued that the legislature has the authority to de-annex land from Stockbridge and to create a new city and noted that lawmakers used two separate bills to do that.
Lawyers for Stockbridge had also filed a motion asking the high court to expedite the appeal or to halt voting on the referendum. The court on Monday ruled 7-2 to deny that request.
Chris Anulewicz, a lawyer for Stockbridge, said in an email that while the high court justices declined to halt the referendum, they did not rule on the merits of the city’s challenge. He said Stockbridge is awaiting that decision.
In addition to the state court case, the proposed creation of Eagle’s Landing is also being challenged in federal court.
By KATE BRUMBACK, Associated Press