Vinings Cityhood: Answering Your Questions, Dispelling Myths  (VEC Email sent March 9, 2022)

In the last couple of weeks, since the Governor signed the bill authorizing a referendum to vote on a City of Vinings, we’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received from you. Many of you have contributed toward our cityhood campaign and become Members of the Vinings Founders’ Club, and we have raised more than $14,000 so far toward our goal of $50,000. Thank you!

Today’s email is the first in a series that we plan to send out to get into more details about why Cityhood is important.  There are 5 topics today, some of them questions we are getting a lot, others correcting misinformation that has been put out.

“Would a City be just another layer of government?”

No. The services that a new City would manage already exist. We would simply be bringing them closer to home under local management.

One of the key goals of this effort is to bring the government CLOSER to the people and make it more responsive. Right now, our Cobb County Commissioner represents almost 200,000 people. With just more than 7,000 people in our proposed city, a City Council member would represent the approximately 1750 people in their District.

Who would you rather have representing the issues that Vinings faces, somebody that lives somewhere else and represents 100 times more people or somebody that lives down the street whom you know?

The City government proposed would be limited in many ways: only three services will be offered initially (zoning, code enforcement, and parks), and the City Council and Mayor would make less than $10,000 a year each and be term-limited, to encourage more “citizen-legislators” rather than lifetime politicians.

The result will be a smaller, more efficient, and more responsive government addressing our needs directly, all without raising new taxes from the citizens (more on this below).

“Why zoning? There’s nothing left to zone in Vinings, right?”

Not true.

It’s important to note that any piece of property in Cobb County could potentially be rezoned and the land use plan changed.

It was only two years ago that the county was proposing to change the land use plan on the 895 acres on the river between Atlanta Road and South Cobb Drive. Even folks in EAST COBB were vehemently opposed to that (we agreed then and now):

http://www.cceastcobb.com/rac-2020-proposal.html

For those of you who receive Ron Sifen’s emails, you know that the county is proposing to overhaul the entire zoning system with potentially dire consequences for Vinings. A City of Vinings, with local zoning control, would not be subject to this plan.

A City of Vinings would allow the duly elected local representatives to vote on your behalf on zoning issues – and this is important because they are affected too. 

We are not opposed to development and progress, but the people of Vinings live here for many reasons, and one of them is the leisurely suburban lifestyle that Vinings currently affords.

“There’s no way to create a new city without raising taxes”

Yes, there is.

But don’t take our word for it. The Carl Vinson Institute at UGA, known as the “gold standard” for independent fiscal studies for new cities here in Georgia (that are required by the state), strongly disagrees. They stated in the Fiscal Feasibility Study we commissioned (using money donated by concerned citizens) that a City of Vinings was not only fiscally feasible but would conservatively have an annual SURPLUS of $1.2 million. You can see all the details of the Study here. The idea that it would somehow “cost too much” to create the City is completely dispelled in that Study. ALL costs are completely accounted for and paid for with revenue to which the City will be entitled.

Other cities in the Atlanta area have successfully been created and have not added any new taxes. Tucker, GA is a great example of this – they have had a surplus for the last 5 years since inception with no tax increase.

People point to the fact that Smyrna has city taxes, but that is not an “apples-to-apples” comparison – Smyrna took on fire and police services as core services of their city and, as such, have levied City taxes to cover those services – but the County taxes have been reduced proportionally. In Georgia, there is a law against DOUBLE TAXATION for the same services, so the county cannot tax you for services that the City is providing.

For Vinings, the county would continue to provide all services the City doesn’t provide, such as Police, Fire and 911 Service, and the county would continue to collect property taxes for those services.

And… if you’re 62+, don’t fret. Your senior school tax exemption will NOT be affected at all by creating a City of Vinings because it’s a state law, therefore, neither the City nor any entity other than the State Legislature would be allowed to change it.

“The Vinings Vision Plan doesn’t require a City to execute it”

We don’t believe this is true.

The Vinings Vision Plan, developed with the help of leading Vinings citizens and approved by Cobb County almost 10 years ago, is a great document that we believe in. It has many key components that we believe are critical to the future of Vinings: addition of green space and code enforcement provisions so that the building style of the area is uniform. The Plan also shows great concern for unbridled growth and density.

We believe creating a City of Vinings is the only way to achieve the goals of the Vinings Vision Plan. 

Ask yourself a simple question: if the Plan was so important to the county, why has so little been done in the last 10 years since its adoption? For example, the county only spent $2760 on parks in Vinings last year (source: the County’s own website responding to all cityhood initiatives).

We believe so little has been done because there is currently no entity in existence like a city that has the authority to speak directly for us in Vinings and negotiate for the green space and other things we want.

Most people don’t know that as part of unincorporated Cobb, we do not get to specify how SPLOST money is spent in Vinings. However, as a City we would be able to ask for our fair share of SPLOST money directly. Austell (a city of comparable size in Cobb) has received over $7 million in this latest SPLOST, but Vinings received less than $1 million in the same period.

It should be noted here that Vinings is a NET CONTRIBUTOR to Cobb County – per the Vinson Study noted above we represent 1.24% of the population (based on 2010 Census) but contribute 3.72% of the tax revenue. We believe that Cityhood provides the mechanism to level the playing field by keeping revenues local.

“Setting up the intergovernmental agreements required for Police, Fire, etc. with Cobb County will be difficult and expensive”

Not true.

New cities in Georgia have been formed successfully for years. In this Cityhood effort, we  are not inventing the creation process – we’re using the same playbook, and many of the processes and procedures are spelled out in House Bill 840 that not only authorizes the referendum on May 24th, but also includes the entire initial Charter for the City. We encourage everyone to read it.

Many cities have used highly specialized city-starting consultancies to get going. According to the many city managers we have spoken to, this is the way to go. Yes, it costs a little more, but the theory is “if you START right, you STAY right”. One of the first decisions to be made by the newly elected City Council will likely be how to approach this issue.

If Cityhood is approved, the VEC will provide all the information (along with city manager contacts) we have put together about these issues to ALL candidates that qualify to be on the ballot in November for City Council.

WE BELIEVE that further high-density zoning will ruin the quality of life and property values for the people of Vinings.

WE BELIEVE that stricter code enforcement is needed.

WE BELIEVE that only through Cityhood can we realize the Vinings Vision Plan and its promise for more green space, less congestion, and a recognizable architectural style.

For these reasons and more, we ask you to vote YES for Vinings on the referendum on May 24th.

Sincerely,

The Vinings Exploratory Committee

P.S. Keep your eyes open for an invitation to our virtual Town Hall tentatively scheduled for Tuesday March 22nd. We will have a panel of speakers who have been through startup cities and have the experience to address your concerns.

[Visit our Voting Information page to find out when, how and where to Vote YES! for Vinings Cityhood.]