ATLANTA — Plans by an Atlanta-area lawmaker to introduce a bill to incorporate St. Simons Island into a city have local legislators fuming Friday.
Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody, said he intends to introduce the bill next week after Monday’s deadline for it to be acted on this year. He didn’t say he necessarily supports creating a city out of the island but that he will sponsor the bill to open the door for its passage next year.
Rules in the House of Representatives require that to create a new city, the bill must be introduced one year and voted on the next. They also require a feasibility study and that residents in the area to be incorporated have the chance to vote on the matter.
“I’m keeping the conversation going,” he said. “I’m not going to move (the bill to passage).”
His involvement angered Rep. Jeff Jones, R-Brunswick, who represents much of the island.
“My position, and that of our delegation, is that it’s none of his business,” Jones said of Taylor.
Supporters of incorporation, Citizens for Saint Simons Island and Sea Island Inc., originally asked Jones to sponsor the bill, which he had agreed to do. He changed his mind after reading the draft they gave him, saying it entrusted too much power and taxing authority to future mayors and city commissioners.
Jones said he and the residents he’s talked to want limits on how much the new city can raise in taxes without voter approval, and they only want the city involved in few matters, such as zoning. The drive for creation of a city stems from public disappointment that Glynn County Commissioners allowed a developer to cut down stately trees to build a convenience store.
“This thing has gone from trees to taxes and a whole lot more,” Jones said.
In the House, it is customary for legislators to avoid involvement in local matters in other parts of the state, leaving those decisions up to the local delegation. Jones plans to complain that Taylor is meddling when the Republican members of the House hold their next, private caucus meeting.
Taylor said he only picked up the ball because of his expertise in incorporation after starting his political career lobbying for the successful creation of the city of Dunwoody and then serving on its city council. That triumph spurred colleagues to ask him to lead other incorporation efforts, including a second city he successfully helped create.
No other member of the House has that much experience, he said.
“I’m literally the only one who has done this,” he said.
For his part, Jones has drafted an incorporation bill to his liking but has not yet introduced. Since Taylor’s bill cannot pass this year, Jones wants his ready for consideration when the General Assembly convenes next year.