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Cities short-sighted in land-grab approach to annexation

October 06, 2005
North Fulton's future lies in the balance, and elected officials' actions will soon determine the tilt. Hanging precariously are dramatically lower county taxes, needed infrastructure improvements and better decision-making closer to the people.

A new Milton County can be seen over the horizon in 2008 if north Fulton residents remain collectively committed to that vision. It will not happen, though, if Alpharetta and Roswell city councils remain committed to short-sighted annexation plans set to harm their own and unincorporated residents.

Both cities' elected officials have reacted with knee-jerk land grabs while 70,000 northeast and 20,000 northwest Fulton unincorporated residents consider more effective, lower cost local government by forming new cities next year.

Alpharetta has maneuvered towards annexing around a park and high-property tax generating neighborhoods while aggressively courting revenue-producing commercial properties.

Roswell put on the full-court press to annex two parks, a fire station and high-end neighborhoods.

Each seeks to supplement city revenues to balance its budget through cherry-picking annexations, rather than looking self-critically at reducing costs and high property tax rates or creating business-friendly policies. Each may blithely leave the unincorporated areas barren of assets that unincorporated residents paid for.

If allowed to be picked clean, the unincorporated remainders may have no choice but to throw in the cityhood towel. Without comprehensive cityhood, though, the odds of north Fulton negotiating a separate Milton County are slim.

To achieve full independence from Fulton County in three years, we have two alternatives. We must either convince a two-thirds majority of the state House and Senate to amend the state's constitution allowing an additional county, and then win a statewide referendum. Or we must strike a deal with two small, low-wealth counties to merge, thus freeing up a spot to stay within the constitutionally restricted maximum number of 159 counties.

In either case, we need an electorate composed entirely of city residents with representation separate from Fulton County working on its citizens' behalf. Without it, creating a new county from scratch also means recreating corrosive, expensive dynamics in which some residents

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