Some residents of an Atlanta suburb are voting Tuesday on whether to form a new city centered around a gated country club — and incorporating some of the more valuable property from a less affluent city they would leave behind.
Earlier this year, Stockbridge elected its first black mayor and an all-black City Council, but the architects of the plan insist Cheesecake Factory — not race — is the motivation behind the move to establish Eagle’s Landing, reported City Lab.
“It has nothing to do with race,” said Vikki Consiglio, one of the plan’s architects, who plans to run for mayor if voters approve the new city.
The plan would fold some of the most valuable real estate and wealthiest households from Stockbridge into Eagle’s Landing, which would leave the smaller, mostly black population with fewer resources to pay for city services.
Stockbridge residents whose property would be merged into the new city can vote on the measure, but not those who would be left behind.
Black residents make up 53 percent of Stockbridge’s voting-age population, while white residents make up 32 percent — but white voters’ power would increase in both cities if the measure goes through, according to Joshua Meddaugh, an associate professor of political science at Clayton State University.
“That’s what needs to be focused on if people are to understand the race issue,” he said. “I’m not sure everybody gets that.”
Stockbridge is the largest city in Henry County, among the fastest growing and diversifying in Georgia, and it’s been named one of the top 10 best cities in the U.S. for African-Americans.
But it’s not affluent enough to attract a Cheesecake Factory or other upscale chain eateries, according to Consiglio.
“I serve on the Henry County zoning board,” Consiglio said, “and so I kept seeing all of these places like Bojangle’s, Waffle Houses, dollar stores, and all this going up in our county. And I was like, why can’t we get a Cheesecake Factory, or a P.F. Chang’s or a Houston’s? We have areas that have high incomes, so what’s the deal?”
She said Cheesecake Factory considered locating in Stockbridge, but found its median household income — $54,769 — was too low to justify opening a restaurant there.
So Consiglio formed a non-profit, the Eagle’s Landing Educational Research Committee, and began drafting plans for a new city.
However, she and other committee members quickly realized they could not pay for state-mandated basic services, such as trash collection and parks management, with primarily residential neighborhoods.
So they decided to scoop up a shopping district, along with some of Stockbridge’s nicer neighborhoods, and include them in the new city.
Taking land from an established city to create a new one has never been done before in Georgia, and lawmakers and other officials fear it could set off a statewide crisis if other cities decide to follow suit.
Stockbridge would see its gross annual revenues cut by nearly half, which could jeopardize its ability to pay for city services and repay municipal bonds.
“I use the analogy that it’s like a divorce — you can’t walk out of most divorces and say I’m taking half of your money, I’m leaving you all the bills, and I’m going to take the two good kids, and you can have the two little sh*tburgers,” said former Stockbridge Mayor Lee Stuart. “Why rip apart a beautiful community? Why not come together and try to make it better. But it’s because they want control.”