By David R. Cohen | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Georgia General Assembly resolved a border dispute in the closing hours of its 2015 session and passed legislation April 2 to create the city of LaVista Hills.
With the passage of House Bill 520, residents of the heavily Jewish Toco Hills community will avoid a split in jurisdiction, property taxes and school zones. The southwestern border of the proposed city runs along Briarcliff Road and extends just south of LaVista Road.
Except for Goldberg’s, Ace Hardware and Top Spice Thai, the Toco Hills Promenade shopping center will fall within the new boundaries.
If, as expected, Gov. Nathan Deal signs the legislation, residents of the proposed city will vote on incorporation in a November referendum.
“The Toco Hills Jewish community has overwhelmingly supported joining the new city, and I am thrilled the legislature is giving us the chance to vote on cityhood,” LaVista Hills activist and Congregation Beth Jacob member Josh Kahn said. “LaVista Hills would mean more police protection, more value for our taxes and a local government small enough to care about our unique community.”
Despite the objections of Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Atlanta, who represents the Toco Hills area, H.B. 520 passed the House on March 11 with a border painstakingly drawn in December between LaVista Hills and Tucker.
Then Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, expanded LaVista Hills to take in part of the proposed area of Tucker, as well as parts of neighborhoods southeast of Toco Hills that had wanted to remain unincorporated. The Senate passed Millar’s version of H.B. 520 on March 25, but the legislation was in danger of being postponed until 2016 when the House and Senate refused to accept each other’s borders March 31.
The dispute primarily focused on the northern borders of Tucker and LaVista Hills between Chamblee-Tucker Road and Interstate 285. Conferees reached a compromise April 2, the final day of the session.
In the end, the Georgia House approved H.B. 520 on a 112-52 vote, with Oliver voting yes on the bill for the first time, and the Senate passed the bill 36-8. Tucker’s cityhood legislation also passed.
Toco Hills was caught in its own border dispute at the beginning of the legislative season. Together in Atlanta, which sought to annex portions of western DeKalb County into the city of Atlanta, drew its proposed border along LaVista Road and would have split the community of about 3,000 people. Oliver cited that unresolved annexation effort in opposing H.B. 520’s fast track through the House early in March.
After a series of community meetings about cityhood options at Young Israel of Toco Hills in January, a survey by the Merry Hills Homeowners Association found 95 percent support for being part of LaVista Hills among those who favored incorporation of some kind. Three-quarters of respondents preferred becoming part of a city rather than remaining an unincorporated area of DeKalb County.