The possibility of a secession from the city of Atlanta became somewhat more likely this week as the affluent Buckhead neighborhood continues its efforts to break away from the crime-ridden downtown area.
Two bills that would allow Buckhead to secede from the city passed a Georgia Senate committee on Monday and could be put to a vote on Wednesday (tomorrow).
If both chambers of the legislature approve the bills and they are then signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp, residents of Buckhead — the 24-square-mile area on the outskirts of Atlanta — could vote in the November 2024 election on whether or not Leave Atlanta and form their own city.
The controversial move was initially met with opposition last year, when former Georgia lieutenant governor Geoff Duncan last year put the kibosh to the test and sent the secession bill to a committee composed solely of urban Democrats who opposed the effort.
However, the state’s new lieutenant governor, Burt Jones, supports the measure. The effort is still expected to meet resistance in the House of Representatives.
Buckhead is one of the most expensive zip codes in the US, with mansions lining the streets and gleaming downtown malls
Crime in Atlanta has skyrocketed in recent years, prompting Buckhead’s population to seriously consider seceding from the troubled downtown
According to Fortunea spokesman for Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said City Hall “will continue to work with the Senate to end this legislation before it has disastrous consequences.”
In 2021, Bill White, Buckhead City’s CEO, pushed for the suburb to “separate” from Atlanta.
“We live in a war zone in Buckhead. Shooting and killing, it just never stops,” he told Bloomberg.
BUCKHEAD, GEORGIA: ONE OF THE RICHEST ZIP CODES IN THE COUNTRY
Buckhead is known as Atlanta’s commercial and residential district, famous for its high rises and shopping malls, hotels and mansions.
The neighborhood is a historically affluent neighborhood and was once ranked the ninth wealthiest zip code in the nation with an average home price of $1,460,595, according to Forbes.
Suburban American luxury home in Buckhead, Atlanta
Bloomberg named Buckhead the 20th wealthiest zip code in the country in 2011 when the average net worth of a household there was $1,353,189.
The median household income was $280,631.
Because of this, Buckhead is often referred to as the “Beverly Hills of the Southeast,” in reference to the upscale California city.
Buckhead is also known to have a few notable residents, including Georgia Republican Kelly Loeffler.
Loeffler was one of the wealthiest members of Congress until she lost her seat in January 2021. In 2009, she and her husband spent more than $10 million on a European-style mansion called Descante in the Buckhead neighborhood.
White, who officially filed for secession from the city in June, previously criticized Atlanta city leadership, including former mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, accusing her of ignoring rising crime in Buckhead and leading a demoralized and underfunded police station.
White hopes the suburb, where the average home costs $1.4 million, will be able to secede to take public safety into its own hands.
The breakup would mean that Atlanta itself would have about 90,000 fewer residents – a population decrease of one-fifth. It would also mean a loss of about 38% of its tax revenue, which in turn could affect Atlanta’s credit rating.
The affluent residents of Buckhead are tired of seeing members of their own community suffer gunshot wounds, home burglaries and murders.
While rumblings about a possible Atlanta split have been going on for years, the Buckhead split has gained momentum in recent years due to lingering crime concerns.
The murder rate in Atlanta climbed last year to 161 – the highest number since 1996. That figure had risen from 157 in 2020 and 99 in 2019.
Burglaries, shoplifting and carjackings also increased in numbers in the southern city.
The divorce proposal, as with all divorces, would take into account assets.
Under the legislation presented, Buckhead City would be allowed to acquire parkland in Atlanta within its borders for as little as $100,000 per acre, despite an acre nearby costing 10 times that
Atlanta would also be required to split all assets outside the city limits with Buckhead City’s proposed boundaries, or sell them and split the proceeds.
The Georgia legislature has allowed unincorporated areas around Atlanta to vote for their own cities for about 20 years in the past.
In that time, however, only one vote has allowed it to leave — the wealthy small town of Stockbridge, and the subdivision’s residents rejected secession in 2018.
In 2021, the last time the proposal to leave the city was sent to the state legislature, an estimated 80 percent of the community planned to vote for the divorce.
Buckhead’s population is 73.5 percent white and 23.9 percent black. This compares to Atlanta’s broader population, which is 50.7 percent black and 38 percent white, according to census data.
The suburb covers 24 square miles, and the White says the Atlanta Police Department is not cutting into it. Following the recent August 7 murder of Kenon Jennings, Buckhead residents are pushing harder to separate their suburb
If the suburb succeeds, it will be the first city in Georgia to break away from an existing one. It is estimated that 54 to 62 percent of Buckhead citizens were pro-annex in 2021
The violence problem persists in Atlanta: High school pallbearers carry the coffin of young shooting victim Lloyd LeVon Foster III, 16, during his funeral at Greater Springfield Baptist Church in the Vine City neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia, US, 18 February 2023