County, Cities Could Resolve Annexation, Land Use Issues If Chairman Byrne Took Last StepPlease e-mail your comments to Philip Goldstein at
Cobb County and the six cities in Cobb will soon face severe sanctions from the State of Georgia. Why? For failure to have an agreement on service delivery. The reason there will not be an agreement is that Cobb Commission Chairman Bill Byrne refuses to meet with the cities to discuss service delivery until the cities sign a land use dispute agreement resolution - a resolution which was held to be unconstitutional last year by the Superior Court Judge.
In a letter written by Chairman, dated June 8, 1998, he stated: "Further, if there is no agreed upon land use dispute process by the July 1, 1998 deadline, Cobb will not participate in any discussions pertaining to tax equity issues." (service delivery)
Last June, Byrne issued an ultimatum to the cities: sign his agreement by June 30, 1998 or there will be no agreement. None signed. Cobb County hired an outside law firm specializing in zoning matters and filed suit against Marietta. Court-directed mediation was unsuccessful. During the process further ultimatums were issued by Byrne. Marietta prevailed in the Superior Court, and the case is on appeal to the Supreme Court of Georgia by the Attorney General. Cobb decided not to appeal.
Immediately after Marietta won in Superior Court, while still in the courtroom, I again stated that Marietta and the other cities are willing to continue talks with the county. (See article in Marietta Daily Journal 8-6-98, page 5A) I was informally told that it would not happen. It was and is my belief that even though the court held the law was unconstitutional, an agreement on a process to resolve disputes is beneficial to our community.
On November 12, 1998, Cobb Municipal Association President Pete Wood sent a letter to the Cobb Commission notifying them of a meeting on service delivery issues set for December 9, 1998. Pete Wood received a reply from Byrne dated November 19, 1998 notifying him that the County declined to participate. Nevertheless, the cities of Cobb held the meeting as planned and directed staff to start work on suggestions for a service delivery strategy.
While there are other issues we still disagree on, the one the County is focused on is a termination clause. Why does Marietta insist on a termination provision that is at the end of a one or two-year period? A lack of trust. The Commission Chairman fostered this distrust when he threatened Marietta that if we annexed at Earnest Barrett Parkway, the County is closed to the City, no roads, etc? He has made good on the threat, even after the County settled on the annexation and rezoning by the city. He has held up the Tower Road Underpass, Atlanta Road and completion of other road projects the voters approved for the county to complete under the local option sales tax. Due to his vindictiveness, Marietta and the taxpayers suffer. The County is now in a deficit on road funds and the price increased during the time Byrne delayed the roads. Has he stopped? NO! He is still trying to undermine completion of Tower Road Underpass and Atlanta Road.
As long as any city is treated fairly, it is unlikely that the agreement will be terminated, as the state sanctions would then start. It is simply a check and balance to put some element of trust back in the process. Absent termination, the contract automatically renews for two-year periods. Threatened with blackmail, who would sign an agreement that continues forever? No one! If you forget history, you are doomed to repeat it. Marietta has had enough history with Chairman Byrne.
The Chairman says that Marietta will be the only one without an agreement. Under the circumstances, I can understand why. Negotiating and dialogue are out of the question. Blackmail, intimidation and bullying are in. Marietta does not submit to any of those options. We will enter into a fair and reasonable agreement with appropriate checks and balances.
What about the sanctions? It is being said that the land use agreement invokes the sanctions. According the Superior Court, that is not correct. It is failure to have a service delivery strategy. Chairman Byrne and Cobb Commissioners, for the sake of the cities in Cobb, Cobb county and the citizens of both, come to the table and let us work out a service delivery strategy as mandated by state law. Your commission room or our council room, the invitation is open and the ball is in your court. If saying please helps, please, for the sake of the public!
The County and its cities are truly on the verge of solving some long-standing issues with respect to annexation and land use. It would be very unfortunate if this progress were wasted because the Commission Chairman is not willing to take the last step on this long journey and provide the cities with some protection from unreasonable and arbitrary actions by future Commissions. The law dictates that we either all win together, or we all lose.
58 South Park Square, Suite P., Marietta, GA. 30060.