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Community debates second city possibility

Rep. Jones holds meeting to hear opinions



FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The debate between being stuck in “geographic purgatory” and having “smarter and wiser growth” continued Aug. 22 when community members gathered to discuss the possibility of a second city in Forsyth County.

In March, House Bill 626, which sought to incorporate the city of Sharon Springs, was introduced in the Georgia House by District 25 State Rep. Todd Jones, who represents South Forsyth.

The bill would provide a charter, a referendum, prior ordinances and rules and set effective dates.

If incorporated Sharon Springs would cover 44 square miles, encompassing much of South Forsyth County south of Cumming to the Fulton County line.

Jones held the meeting at the Old Atlanta Recreation Center to field pros and cons from the public.

“It’s important for us to recognize we sit on a precipice right now,” Jones said. “The fact of the matter is Forsyth County is so good in so many ways. There have been times when people told me, ‘I wish I had your problems.’ We are No. 1 in so many things, it’s important to be proud of it but also keep in mind we are at a crossroads.”

A 12-member Sharon Springs Study Committee was formed earlier this year when Jones, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners and other county officials selected representatives to study the issue. The panel met four times over the summer with a variety of municipal experts to discuss a variety of topics.

The committee will take the comments from the open forum and draft a recommendation to bring a referendum on the incorporation of Sharon Springs in May 2018.

Most public speakers at the event spoke in favor of the second city.

Phillip Barlag, the founder of the Sharon Springs Alliance, was unable to attend the meeting, but he had a letter read stating his thoughts.

“Anyone who supports or dismisses Sharon Springs without a detailed understanding of the complexity of this issue should just keep going,” Barlag wrote. “For all the discussion on Sharon Springs, the pros and cons and the feedback, there is one question that must be answered. Do citizens of a community have the right to decide representation?”

That question came up frequently by the crowd with most agreeing they should be able to have a vote on the formation of another city.

Proponents of the city said it would give citizens better representation, something more responsive than a single county commissioner. The said it would also help guide growth and provide the locality with its own branding.

The few opponents in the room said the new city would not help school overcrowding, and it would create more layers of government, more high density zoning and more traffic.

“I’m against Sharon Springs because I think the county is doing its job,” Bill Fitch said. “I’m really in favor of this county. We live in God’s country. I moved from Roswell, and Roswell is not looking good today, I don’t want Forsyth County to go the same way.”

Moving forward, Jones said it’s crucial to have meetings to decide as a community what to do, even if one doesn’t agree with what was decided.

“The question becomes, what will become of this particular issue?” Jones said. “For better or worse, there will be a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser.’ People can’t ‘accept the fact’ that certain things were voted on. I don’t want that to be us. We have a chance to be a model for the state and country.”

Jones said the reason he introduced the bill was to “rip the Band Aid off” and have finality about creating another city.

“We need to rally around one thing and who we are,” Jones said. “We are better together than we are apart.”

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