Residents opposed to Mableton cityhood eye de-annexation

Nov. 9—One day after a ballot measure to incorporate the city of Mableton in south Cobb passed, opponents of the move are already exploring de-annexation.

Christie Lynn, a representative of the anti-cityhood group Preserve South Cobb, told the MDJ precincts in the proposed city that voted overwhelmingly against incorporation should not be forced to become part of Mableton. The referendum to incorporate the city received 13,156 votes in favor, or 53%, with all 16 precincts completed as of 5:15 a.m. Wednesday.

According to Rusi Patel, general counsel for the Georgia Municipal Association, there are two ways land can be de-annexed from a city. The first is through an act of the Georgia General Assembly, by which the legislature introduces a local bill to de-annex parcels of land requested by residents.

The second, Patel said, "is like a reverse 100% annexation," in which all property owners in the area requesting de-annexation sign a petition and submit it to the city, which would then have to accept the request.

Scott Cochran, the city attorney for Smyrna, told the MDJ Wednesday de-annexation is "very rare" and difficult to achieve. Not only would the city need to approve the request, he said, but the residents requesting de-annexation would need to ensure certain requirements under state law are met.

"For instance, you can't de-annex and create an island, property in the city surrounding property that's not in the city," Cochran said.

Patel said de-annexation does not occur frequently, but stopped short of saying it is rare. He added it is less common for the legislature to de-annex land than for cities to approve petitions brought by residents.

Should residents in the new city of Mableton request de-annexation, the city's governing body, in this case a six-member city council that will not be elected until sometime in the first half of 2023, would need to approve the request.

Lynn said she and others pushing for de-annexation would begin with the Birney 02 precinct, an area she added state Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, had asked pro-Mableton cityhood organizers to remove from the proposed boundaries for Mableton earlier this year.

By 5:15 a.m. Wednesday, the precinct, an area around the East-West Connector to the west of the Concord Covered Bridge, recorded 1,443 votes opposed, or 71.6%. By the same time Wednesday, Mableton 04, the precinct bordering Birney 02 to the south, had tallied 791 votes opposed, or 73.2%.

"The cityhood discussion has always been that it's supposed to be about local control, so if there is any area of the map that our representative didn't want included that now has also voted 71% against the measure, then local control means pursuing possible de-annexation," Lynn said. "If we have true local control, it means that we should not be part of the city when it incorporates."

William Wilson, the chair of MabletonYES!, told the MDJ late Tuesday he realized that, even though the push for Mableton cityhood appeared victorious, just under half of voters in the area opposed the measure.

"We may get 55%, but there's 45% also that's in this community, that, they might not have fully believed, but if this passes, we're going to have to gather that group up as well and provide that vision," Wilson said. "It is going to be a community effort, and we need everybody on board."

Lynn said the lack of a convincing victory for Mableton cityhood spoke to doubts about how popular the move was in the end.

"I think that the fact that they got 13,000 votes in an area of 78,000 people doesn't show that there's overwhelming support for cityhood," Lynn said.