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Monday, November 19, 2007

Dueling township bills

This past spring, Sen. David Adelman, D-Atlanta, unveiled a bill that some considered a breath of sanity in the city-makin' frenzy that had gripped the General Assembly. Dubbed the Georgia Townships Act, it would give unincorporated communities some of the benefits of self-governance without having to take on all the responsibilities -- and costs -- of a full-fledged municipality.

Put more simply, it would create a middle-ground option between being the long-suffering patsies of an uncaring county government and having to form a city from scratch -- with all of the headaches that entails. Under Adelman's bill, a town would control its own planning, zoning and land use -- the most common reasons for disenchantment with one's county commission.

Now, two Republican lawmakers are pushing a competing township bill that goes a few steps farther. Under a proposal by Reps. Ed Lindsey and Mike Jacobs, both of Atlanta, towns would also have dominion over code enforcement and building permits -- so far, so good -- as well as liquor licenses.

Huh?

Jacobs says the booze provision was added after DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones vetoed a local ordinance to roll back bars hours in response to complaints by nearby residents in some communities. Reportedly, House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons, is already interested in exploring the township option for his island home.

However, the most interesting difference is Lindsey's contribution, which would give communities within existing cities additional say-so over their zoning destinies.

Lindsey hasn't ironed out the details yet, but says, "I don't want this to be perceived as an attack against cities."

Too late for that. The Georgia Municipal Association is already gunning for Adelman's bill with both barrels, claiming that it would undermine cities' efforts to annex new territory. The GMA may be right; in many cases, forming a town could be an attractive alternative to creating a new city or joining an existing one. But since when is giving people a broader range of

options a bad thing?

Our hunch is, if it hated the Adelman bill, which has already passed the Senate, the GMA will really loath the Lindsey provision.

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