About 100 people turned out for a community-wide meeting to discuss carving out a new city in Southeast DeKalb County called Stonecrest. The Stonecrest City Alliance, led by Jason Lary, organized the June 10 meeting, which was held at the Stonecrest Library to share information, get input and raise money for the state-required feasibility study. The study, Lary said, is expected to cost $30,000 and so far about $6,000 has been raised, he told the audience.
“Some are saying we can’t do it, there’s not enough rooftops to generate revenue, there’s not enough this or that as if they are A1 economists,” said Lary. “But this isn’t shade tree economics. I’m not listening to those people. We have to conduct the feasibility study to determine what we can actually do. Other areas are taking control of their futures. We have to take control of ours.”
Earlier this year, State Sen. Ron Ramsey filed a “place holder” bill for the city of Stonecrest. He and other state lawmakers plan to discuss six cityhood bills during the 2014 Legislative session. The bills to create new cities include Lakeside (SB 270); Tucker (HB 677); Briarcliff/North Druid Hills (HB 665); LaVista Hills (SB 275); the city of DeKalb (HB 687) and Stonecrest (SB 278). Since the creation of the city of Brookhaven, legislators are required to file a bill two years prior to holding a vote for cityhood.
Lary said a new city of about 55,000 residents would give those in unincorporated East DeKalb County the chance to govern themselves, boost the economy and increase home values. He said he imagined that the proposed city of Stonecrest would contract fire and police protection from DeKalb County rather than start its own departments because of the exorbitant costs. But he said the feasibility study, which would take about four months, would provide projections on all of the costs for operating a city.
‘”That’s why the study is so critical,” Lary said.
And although the exact boundaries of a new city of Stonecrest are still yet to be defined, Tameeka Ekte-Thomas, who lives in unincorporated Lithonia, said she, for one, wants to be included.
“The biggest thing is we have to get the word out,” Ekte-Thomas said. “We need a bigger, stronger alliance. I think that’s one of the first steps in getting this into motion.”
Ekte-Thomas, who works as director of hotel operations at the Embassy Suites Hotel Atlanta Airport, says she believes a new city will spur development. She thinks that an amphitheater in the area could be the city’s calling card.
“You’ve got the Mall at Stonecrest and all the businesses around it just ready to grow and serve more people. If this area had more exposure, I think the mall and businesses would do even better, but we have to have something like the amphitheater to draw people in,” said Ekte-Thomas. “Once concert goers come to the amphitheatre, they will shop, eat and drink at surrounding businesses.”
Samuel Stephens said he has mixed feelings about the proposed city. The Ford Motor Company retiree says he would like to see major companies bring more revenues to the area--and not just Wal-mart.
“Yeah, Dunwoody did it but we don’t need to compare ourselves to Dunwoody. That’s a different situation than what we are facing. I think there’s still a whole lot to figure out,” Stephens said.
Faye Coffield, a community activist who has lived in the Chaparral area near the Mall at Stonecrest for 33 years, spoke against the proposal.
“My main concern is where is the money going to come from to operate a city?” said Coffield, who added that she does not favor a city manager form of government.
“I believe that circumvents the rights of voters,” Coffield said.
Under SB 278, the Stonecrest City Council would be comprised of six elected members plus a mayor. A city manager with the required educational background would oversee the city’s day-to-day operations.