The Stonecrest City Alliance is close to raising the $30,000 needed for the state-required feasibility study that would help determine if the Stonecrest area should become its own municipality.
A packed crowd attended the Alliance’s July 9 community meeting and several people pitched in after hearing a presentation about the proposed City of Stonecrest. The study must be conducted to determine, among other things, the projected operating costs should residents in the area break away from DeKalb County to govern themselves.
“That crowd was the largest that we’ve had so far. We raised $4,000 at that meeting, bringing the total we have brought in so far to $20,000,” said Jason Lary, who is leading the Alliance.
Lary said the group must raise $10,000 more by the end of the month to pay for the study.
The Carl Vinson Institute requires five to six months to conduct the study, which is slated to get under way at the end of July. The study must be completed by December in order for the proposal to go before the General Assembly in January 2014, Lary said.
Earlier this year, State Rep. 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 he and board members of the Alliance are optimistic the feasibility study will get done in time for the 2014 Legislative session. Lary said he is not only encouraged by community feedback he has received so far, but by leaders outside of DeKalb.
“Governor Deal expressed his pleasure of our self-determination to improve our quality of living and self-governance in Southeast DeKalb,” said Lary, who recently attended a luncheon where the governor was speaking.
Oliver Porter, founding father of the city of Sandy Springs, attended Lary’s July meeting at the Stonecrest Library. Porter, who authored a book on creating Sandy Springs, urged residents to learn as much as possible from the study before making up their minds about the cityhood proposal. He said Sandy Springs operates much more efficiently since its incorporation.
Lary said 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.
Still some have already made up their minds. Faye Coffield, a resident who has lived in the area for 30 years, was one of a few people who spoke against the proposal, saying she feared a new city would further erode DeKalb County services as a whole. She also said she expected that residents in the new city would pay higher property taxes to afford services such as public safety that they now receive from DeKalb County.
“I moved to this area because I wanted to be in an unincorporated area where we already have those services,” Coffield said.
But DeKalb NAACP President John Evans said residents in the Stonecrest area owe it to themselves to find out if they should form a new city.
“We cannot afford not to do this. We’re going to have to prove that we can do it. They are looking for us to fail,” said Evans.
Wesley Dowdy, who heads the Stonecrest Business Alliance, said he personally supports moving ahead with the study.
“The board has not voted formally on this one way or the other, but I support seeing at least what the study has to say. The more information we have, the better off we’ll be,” said Dowdy. “I can say this:
There’s a consensus of the board that there has to be some dramatic action as it relates to the DeKalb County government and the Stonecrest area. There’s been a lot of talk by the county in terms of economic development but that talk has not resulted into action.”
Dowdy said the Business Alliance plans to issue a resolution as it relates to DeKalb County government and the Stonecrest area.
Lary said he, too, has been disappointed with the lack of response from county leaders, some of whom have pitched creating a city of DeKalb that would include about 300,000 residents. Organizers are pushing for a much smaller city of Stonecrest--about 70,000 residents. The number grew from about 55,000 to 70,000 because they say more residents have said they want to be included.
“Frankly, I’m puzzled that our South DeKalb county leaders haven’t attended any of the community meetings concerning Stonecrest,” Lary said. “The county leaders in the North end have been very active in discussions where several cities are proposed.” They want to hear what their constituents have to say.”
The Stoncecrest City Alliance will meet Tuesday, Aug. 6, 6 o 8 p.m. at the Stonecrest Library, 3123 Klondike Road, Lithonia.
The Stonecrest City Alliance is growing. Here is a look at who is serving on the board of directors and advisory board:
Board of Directors
Jason Lary - President
Darold Honore’ - Vice President
Michelle Emanuel-Harrington - Treasurer
Debra Lary - Secretary
Tony Render - Finance Chairman
Brenda Cornelius - Legislative Chairwoman
Penelope Laws - Chairwoman
Byron King - Vice Chairman
Tiffany Adams - Director of Media
Gina Mangham - Member
Henry Laws -Member
Chad Belinfanti - Member
Boye Akinola - Member
E. Charles Hubbard - Member
Jeff Shannon - Member
Thomas Kurrie - Coleman Talley LLP