2015 Legislative Session

The Fifth Week. Atlanta, the Braves, and the Absurd State of City Annexation and Creation

Last week was rather quiet with only one new significant bill introduced that pertains to land use, transportation, and environmental issues. However legislation was introduced in the Senate several weeks ago calling for the boundaries of the City of Atlanta to be extended northwards to annex all the land up to the piece of Cobb County that will soon play home to the Atlanta Braves. Senate Bill 96 somehow alluded my attention, perhaps because it seems like an Onion headline or some other piece of satire poking fun at the absurdity in the proliferation of new cities in the metro region.

This the fifth installment of a weekly segment looking at the bills being introduced in the Georgia Assembly that involve land use, environmental, and transportation issues. Please see the 2015 Legislative Session page for ongoing coverage.

Map of Braves Fans. This is going to require moving lots of people east and west, which will place almost all the load on less  than a handful of roads.

Map of Braves Fans with New Stadium. This is going to require moving lots of people east and west, which will place almost all the load on less than a handful of roads.

This bill likely has little chance of passing for a number of reasons, chiefly because neither the residents of Atlanta nor the residents of Cobb have voiced any significant desire for this annexation. Even if it doesn’t pass or garner much attention, which it really hasn’t considering the implications, it highlights how trigger happy we are to just create new cities or redraw borders when we don’t like something and don’t want to get along. The Braves are leaving Atlanta. It’s probably not good for the region as a whole, at least in terms of transportation and land use policy, but it actually could be a good thing for the City of Atlanta. The City needs to move on from the Braves and just fully realize that the team did little for the City when it was at Turner Field and isn’t needed for future economic growth.

We have numerous studies showing the negative efficacy rates publicly-financed stadiums/arenas have on localized economic development. Turner Field, built for the Olympics, has done little to rejuvenate the surrounding neighborhoods. Of course there is symbolic value in having a professional sports team play in the actual city whose name is on the players’ jerseys, but does it really matter beyond that? Are the Braves or Turner Field consistently creating more economic output for the local area or the city in general than could a rejuvenated, vibrant neighborhood? Unlike a general arena, a baseball field is really used for just one thing, during one part of the year. Aside from parking revenue and some hotel revenue, Turner Field with the Braves has contributed little to the local economy.

Maybe it’s a good thing that the City no longer needs to pander to the Braves and can open up the entire site for new uses. Georgia State now has plans to completely transform the site, which would involve the presence of large groups of people on a near round-the-clock basis. The school would use the site in a mixed-use fashion with classrooms, residences, and shops all while keeping the stadium and opening it up for more uses.This is almost exactly what is needed.

Annexing the land to return the team to Atlanta serves no purpose. It wouldn’t solve the logistical problems that come from locating the team away from alternative transportation options. Turner Field certainly had its transportation problems, but many of those were due to the Downtown Connector being the Downtown Connector and poor connectivity with MARTA. Without looking at any numbers, creating better access between MARTA and Turner Field appears to be much much cheaper than creating better access between MARTA and the new stadium. Even if stadium-building would spur localized development surrounding the stadium, Atlanta isn’t really having any trouble with development in already affluent areas. Very few places are for that matter. It doesn’t need the stadium. The only reason left is symbolism and that’s a terrible reason to redraw political borders.

That terrible reason, though, does a great job of showing just how imprudent and frankly irresponsible we’ve gotten in our insatiable appetite for new cities and political jurisdictions. We already can’t get along even when it comes to moving forward on major critical regional projects. Creating more political jurisdictions with more politicians who have to get along will obviously only make this worse. Redrawing boundaries because you don’t like how people two miles or ten miles away from you vote or act is childish. At some point you have to try to get along with people.

Sign Promoting City-hood for Briarcliff briarcliffga.org

Sign Promoting City-hood for Briarcliff

Last week we saw the introduction of a bill that at least tries to make it a bit more difficult to redraw political boundaries. House Bill 360 would require approval by both residents in the annexing city as well as residents in the land to be annexed prior to any annexation. If either one fails to approve then two years must elapse before returning to the procedure. This is a departure from requiring only those residing in the land to be annexed to approve. This doesn’t address the creation of completely new municipalities, but if it passes it would at least require a bit more consensus before political boundaries are redrawn.

Let’s now take a look at the new/improved/eliminated cities count and get updates on bills being tracked.

Cities Count

New: 1 (City of South Fulton, HB-165)

Improved: 2 (City of Kennesaw, HB-329, and City of Atlanta, SB-96)

Eliminated: 1 (City of Payne, SB-11)

The City of Atlanta’s expansion plans were just discussed above. The bill, SB-96, is currently assigned to the State and Local Government Operations Committee. There was no movement on the bills to create the new city of South Fulton or to abolish the City of Payne. The House passed the bill to expand the city limits of Kennesaw by a vote of 160-0.

HB-433: Creation of New Metropolitan Planning Process for Transportation and Clean Air

Kevin Cooke, 18th

This bill appears to mandate that local governments that are either part of the Atlanta Urbanized Area, as defined by the US Census, or an air quality non-attainment area, as defined by the Clean Air Act and the EPA, participate in a transportation and air quality planning process. It appears to be important in terms of defining what governments are part of what regional organizations. The bill is going to require more investigation, though at this point it appears to be most important in organizing those fringe metropolitan counties that have portions of their counties residing in the Atlanta Urbanized Area, but that aren’t part of the Atlanta Regional Commission. State and federal conflict as to what a county is supposed to do when its population has grown to the point of joining a larger metro region, as defined be one law, but isn’t part of the regional planning agencies overseeing the metro region.

Updates on Other Bills Being Tracked

Note: Click on the bill number for a background discussion of each bill. 

HB-57: Financing of Solar Energy. Still waiting on the Senate to take up the bill after passing the House.

HB-4: Transfer of Water into the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District. This bill is currently in its second read in the Natural Resources and Environment Committee.

HB-11: Preventing the Boundaries of New Cities from Creating Islands of Unincorporated Areas. This bill is currently in its second read in the Governmental Affairs Committee.

HB-21: Abolish a Population Requirement for the Creation of the Transit Systems. This bill is currently in its second read in the Transportation Committee.

HB-116 and SB-36: Prevent the Pumping of Groundwater into the Floridan Aquifer. Both bills are currently in the Transportation Committee of the their respective branches.

SB-63: Allow Brewpubs and Breweries to Sell Beer On-premises and To-go. This bill is currently assigned to the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee.

SB-101: Creation of a Buffer Along Marshlands. This bill has not moved beyond its initial assignment to the Natural Resources and Environment Committee.

HB-174: Urban Redevelopment Law. This bill is currently in its second read in the Transportation Committee.

HB-360: Support Required for City Annexation. This bill is currently in its second read in the Governmental Affairs Committee.

HB-318: Membership in Regional Commissions is Optional. This bill is currently in its second read in the Governmental Affairs Committee.

Please see the 2015 Legislative Session page for ongoing coverage of the legislative session.

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