A map showing the boundaries of the new city Sharon Springs. A.J. MCNAUGHTON. (click for larger version)
January 20, 2014FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The city of Cumming, Forsyth County's lone municipality and county seat, may gain a neighboring city to the south.
A group of South Forsyth residents have formed the Sharon Springs Alliance (SSA), a nonprofit created to study the pros, cons and feasibility of establishing the city of Sharon Springs.
"I think it's great to explore this as an option to some of the problems in South Forsyth," said Phillip Barlag, the group's co-founder. "It is not the position of SSA that incorporating a city is the answer – just that it may be the answer."
Barlag said the reaction so far has been positive.
"People have many questions, of course," Barlag said. "It's the start of a long process."
Those that are the co-founders of SSA came together through a common frustration of the lack of local accountability in South Forsyth, Barlag said.
For example, 90 percent of all zonings in the county are for the area south of exit 14 on Ga. 400. "However, the voice of the local residents about decisions in this area is not being heard," Barlag said, "and is not being reflected in the decisions of the Board of Commissioners."
The group's proposed incorporation area borders a highly populated and fast-growing area.
It includes the area from the city of Cumming to Ga. 20 down to Samples Road and then Haw Creek toward the Chattahoochee River in the east, south to the Fulton County line and west to Ga. 400 from the Fulton County line to the Cumming city limits.
The lengthy process to become a city requires a state-mandated feasibility study be performed by the Carl Vinson Institute of the University of Georgia. The SSA is seeking funding through online donations.
The county's seven-member state legislative delegation would need to offer their unanimous support to hold a public election on cityhood.
Brian Tam, Forsyth County Board of Commissioner for District 2, which represents the majority of the area, said he hasn't heard from the SSA about their plans to incorporate.
"I just haven't met with them yet," Tam said.
Barlag, one of seven founding members, said the reasoning behind cityhood was to create more government accountability. The group is also studying ways to sustain a new city that could provide services and be overseen locally.
Part of that local control would keep portions of county sales tax revenue that's already there in the community for public safety, zoning and other services.
"Not by creating more government, but by shifting accountability locally," he said. "It certainly would be nice to give residents of this area a direct say in decisions that affect our quality of life."
SSA plans to host a series of public meetings to introduce the proposed map, discuss the pros and cons of cityhood and share feedback between residents, local businesses and interested stakeholders. SSA is actively seeking volunteers to help in the effort. Meeting dates and volunteering opportunities will be posted on their website.
"Incorporating a new city is a big decision, one not to be taken lightly," said Barlag.
To find out more about the SSA's plans and initiative, visit www.sharonspringsga.org.