Sunday, April 6, 2008

Last Minute Dunwoody Property Transfer Bill Fails & Future DeKalb CEO Loses Power - GoDeKalb

Sunday, 06 April 2008
Mary Swint of

With about five minutes left in the 2008 session on April 4, Rep. Fran Millar of Dunwoody attempted the legislative equivalent of a Hail Mary pass. He moved for adoption of House Bill 1015, which had been amended in the Senate to provide for the transfer of county property to a newly created city. The motion failed by a wide margin.

When HB 1015, sponsored by Rep. Jan Jones, passed the House on February 20 by a vote of 159 to 0, it only dealt with the provision of county services in noncontiguous areas after the creation of a city.

Later the Senate State and Local Governmental Operations Committee amended it extensively to cover the transfer of property from a county to a newly formed city and gave the bill a sunset date December 31, 2009. The bill was tabled in the Senate on April 2 but on April 4, the last day of the session, it was taken off the table and passed the Senate. The House would not accept the Senate’s amendment to the bill.

Millar told the House the bill would only apply to Dunwoody. Earlier in the session the legislature passed SB 82, which will allow the residents of Dunwoody to vote in a referendum on July 15 on whether to form a new city. The companion bill SB 83, which remained tabled in committee in the House, would have set prices any new city would pay their county to acquire property.

Under HB 1015, Dunwoody or DeKalb County could have petitioned the court for mandatory mediation if the two governments could not reach an agreement on the purchase price for a police station, fire station, or park. If no agreement was reached at the conclusion of the mediation, either the county or city could have petitioned the superior court to resolve the dispute. The bill did not set specific prices for the properties.

The amended bill also would have allowed the city to pay for the property purchases over 25 years with interest. It also provided for the payment to Dunwoody of bond revenue that the county had designated for projects in that area, such as improvements to Brook Run Park. Also the bill would have prevented the county from rezoning property inside Dunwoody before the new city could take over planning and zoning inside its borders.

After another DeKalb legislator objected to the extensive revisions in the bill, Rep. Jill Chambers indicated the bill was important to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. This was significant because House Speaker Glenn Richardson had angrily criticized Cagle several times that evening for blocking his tax reform bill and even called for a new lieutenant governor.

After the session ended, Millar said, “Rep. Chambers continued her misstatements by saying the Lt. Governor really wanted the bill.” Millar said the legislation was not necessary.

In other actions on April 4, the House adopted Senate Bill 52, which the Senate had passed on Feb. 14, 2007. This legislation would allow DeKalb voters to vote in a special election on whether DeKalb CEOs should be prohibited from presiding at Board of Commissioners meetings and setting agendas for the meetings. However, the bill said the election should be held in 2007. It is not clear whether the date was changed before the local delegation approved the bill.

Another bill supported by some DeKalb legislators, SB 89, did not come up for a vote in the full House although a committee gave it a favorable recommendation on March 20. That bill would have established the procedure for creating townships to control zoning and land development.

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