We’re frequently asked by neighbors why the legislative process is so complicated. The process of starting a new city involves a set of statutes that define how a city is created, as well as rules adopted by both houses of the Georgia General Assembly. On top of that, the process of introducing a bill or legislation in the General Assembly can be quite involved.
The statutes allow any group of citizens who wish to exercise their right to form a city to do so. The statutes describe the general process, which includes selection of services, introduction of a bill containing a map and city charter, and a referendum, or vote, by the citizens of the proposed new city. Our state constitution provides oversight of local governments like counties and cities to the General Assembly, which is why part of this process involves beginning with a proposed law, or bill. And because city creation is a matter of both regional and state interest, any member of the General Assembly can introduce such a bill; there is no requirement that the person introducing the bill live in the particular area. Sometimes there is more than one sponsor, as multiple legislators may have an interest in the bill.
Vista Grove began this two-year process in February with the introduction of a House bill by an experienced member of the DeKalb delegation, Rep. Tom Taylor. He helped found the city of Dunwoody and served on its city council, and is one of the most knowledgeable legislators on the process of city creation. On the Senate side, Sen. Fran Millar, another DeKalb legislator who has deep expertise on the legislative side, will sponsor and carry the bill forward in 2019. And as a precautionary measure, it was decided that a companion bill to our House bill should be introduced for the 2018 session as well by another senator, Josh McKoon.Read more
A Strong Vista Grove Means a Strong Region and County
Partnership is a vital aspect of how cities can operate effectively in DeKalb County today. For some needs, it makes more sense for a small and very responsive city government to handle them; for others, where a uniform type of non-localized service is provided over a large area, it makes more sense for the county to handle those needs.
This goes back to the history of the region. DeKalb, of course, covers a very large land area. When it was set up, the area was largely rural and the population much, much smaller. In recent years, the population has swelled, and the county today is comprised of many different neighborhoods, which are part of multiple larger communities. Tucker, before its incorporation, is one example. Vista Grove, united by Lakeside school communities and shared history, is another. And across the county, different communities are in different states of economic development. They also have different needs.
What Tucker, Brookhaven, and Chamblee have shown us is that counties and cities can partner, providing different but collaborative functions to make sure those different community needs get the most direct and efficient attention. To determine which functions make the most sense, one excellent question is, “How dependent is this service on direct input from a particular set of citizens in a particular geographic area?”Read more
OK – now that a bill is introduced, what comes next?
Our top priority for now is fundraising. We need to complete funding for the feasibility study, which we are doing in installments, and your contributions are so important. To continue to foster informed discussion and put on informational events, there are also ongoing expenses for the Vista Grove website and assorted items such as rental of meeting spaces. We count on your help to make that happen.
In this regard, we will be holding regular community outreach meetings to continue to introduce ourselves and discuss Vista Grove with more of our neighbors. As we reach out, we’d appreciate your help with communications – it would be wonderful if we could identify one contact in every neighborhood email or other social media group who could post any announcements to their group. Something like an old fashioned phone tree!
We have also created several task forces that will be working on specific plans for projects to benefit the community, including enhancements to parks and greenspace, and sidewalk and trial expansion. We have a good parks and recreation report started which we are working to update and expand in light of the exciting new park and trail possibilities that have opened up as a result of the funding identified in our feasibility study.Read more
We have some very good news to share - We have moved into the next phase of our efforts to plan for our community’s future.
Georgia House Representative Tom Taylor has introduced a bill that will allow citizens to vote on the creation of a City of Vista Grove.
The Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia recently completed a feasibility study for the proposed city which determined that a City of Vista Grove could operate with an estimated $10-million budget surplus while offering a range of services, including police, planning and zoning, parks and roads.Read more
Planning a Better Future for Vista Grove
If we are to meet the challenges of tomorrow in our North DeKalb community, we need the ability to innovate, to plan locally and long-term, and to implement those plans. Safe intersections, beautiful and walkable/bikable streetscapes, an expanding network of parks, greenspace and trails, and a vibrant and lively mix of uses in our commercial areas do not happen by accident. These good things happen when a community has a smart, comprehensive plan, and the citizen energy and dedicated local resources to support it.
In Brookhaven, Tucker, and Chamblee, citizens have provided input to their city governments that is reflected in very specific and comprehensive 20-year plans. Those plans are coupled with budgets and action plans to accomplish those long-term goals —funding additional sidewalks, acquiring additional parks and improving and adapting existing ones, and making public spaces safe, beautiful and vibrant.
Our area (and the proposed City of Vista Grove) is ready for that kind of vision and dedicated long-term planning. We understand that the wonderful aspects of our community require our volunteer efforts and engagement, and require sustained attention. Doing nothing, and simply allowing ad hoc uses, does not work. For instance, visitors to certain portions of the Clairmont Road area just off I-85 near Briarcliff see cracked asphalt lots, shuttered businesses and junked cars instead of the sidewalks, trees, restaurants, and stores that such a key corridor should support.Read more
Legislative Track Moving Forward — Continue to Call and E-mail Legislators
Thank you for your continued interest in improving our amazing community. With your help, we can move forward with the next steps of our effort: the release of a feasibility study and the introduction of a bill in the General Assembly to permit citizens to vote on making Vista Grove a city.
The bill will be comprised of the city charter and a map, developed logically with your support and community input. The map will generally track the boundaries you see on our website, with some variation because the legislature builds maps with a special format (combining individual census blocks, which does not permit the fine-grained precision of a block-by-block parcel map).
We expect to have a completed feasibility study available in under two weeks. Based on what we know about the strong tax base in our region, we anticipate that the analysis will confirm that a City of Vista Grove is not only feasible but economically strong and able to support a range of services. We want our local legislators to know that, and to support and co-sponsor the bill.Read more
Research and our own experience tells us that being part of a cohesive community makes us happier and improves our quality of life. Part of that cohesion comes from having a civic identity, from being citizens of Vista Grove.
Defining the place itself is certainly part of that. We share a community built around shared school, church, and recreational activities but can’t easily answer the question, “Where do you live?”
Rather than mentioning a street, intersection, or vague geographic descriptor (“North Decatur area, near Mercer, around Lavista,” etc.), we know from friends in neighboring cities about the pride and sense of belonging that can come from having a defined name.
“We live in Vista Grove!” — and with that, we evoke the social trust associated with a community that is connected.Read more
Hello Vista Grove Friends! We hope your holiday season has been a joyous and meaningful one. At our December 21 town hall meeting in Embry Hills, we had a terrific group of friends and community members come together, sharing their ideas, hopes, and vision for the future. And as a means of furthering this vision — of connecting our community and energizing citizen participation — we’ve continued to receive very positive support for a potential City of Vista Grove. Here is a short distillation of thoughts on the topic, based on feedback we’ve received to date.Read more
Why should Vista Grove be a city? We know given the incorporation of so much of not only neighboring metro counties and across DeKalb, that the default governance model is the city partnering with the county. It is not a matter of if, it it is a matter of "when and how" our area becomes a city through incorporation or annexation into another city, and we have uniformly heard our residents express wish to have some control over that process. Rather than being acted upon, they want themselves to define a compelling future for our community. In addition, recent history and experience teach that there are other important advantages, discussed below.Read more
Hello Vista Grove friends and happy summer! With your help, we've continued to be very busy since our last round of town hall meetings and gatherings listening -- listening to your stories about what the Vista Grove area means to you; listening to the kinds of community services you'd like to see improved local government offer; and listening to your ideas about how we work together to keep this incredible community safe and strong now, and for many years to come. Here's what's next...Read more