Shane Davis grew up in Winston and lives in the Fairplay community about as far south as you can go in Douglas County without crossing into Carroll County.
Davis said those areas have a “homey” feel to them that he wants to preserve. And he believes the best way to do that is to create a new city called River City that would encompass a large swath of southern and western Douglas County.
River City would be about 62 square miles — roughly a third of the county — and have a population of about 17,000 people, Davis said.
The boundaries for the proposed city take in everything south of I-20 that’s west of a line from Mason Creek Road to Highway 5, then west of Big A Road to Highway 166 and over to the Chattahoochee River.
Davis said the idea to create a new city is one he and some others have been kicking around for a few years. They recently decided to move ahead with forming a city, which he said is a two-year process. If everything goes as planned, he said a new River City government could be in place by 2017.
Getting to that point four years down the road starts with public meetings. The first public meeting has been set for Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at New Covenant United Methodist Church at 5960 Highway 5 in Douglasville. There will be more hearings next year.
From there, Davis said the Georgia Legislature would have to pass a bill allowing the citizens who live in the area to vote on whether or not they want the new city. That process would presumably happen in 2015 and 2016.
“I’ve heard people say, awe, it’s another level of government,” Davis said. “Well, when you shrink a government, you make it more accessible to the people inside that government. Everything that goes on is going to be about that area — all the resources, everything. So I think it would be a good thing.”
Davis, whose day job is a bail bondsman, said he’s seen the crime that’s slowly made its way into his home county and as a family man he worries that it will keep creeping toward the rural southern and western edges.
State law requires a city to offer three services, and Davis said one he’d like to see River City offer is land use and zoning.
He said a city-controlled land use and zoning process would allow the area to control how growth happens so the area doesn’t get overbuilt.
Still, that doesn’t mean Davis wouldn’t like to see some amenities down his way. He said it’s a 25 minute drive for him into Carroll County to buy groceries or eat out. He said he’d love to see a small Publix grocery store and maybe a Mexican restaurant in Fairplay. And he said that’s part of his motivation for trying to get River City started.
“I want some development but you want it controlled and you want to actually have a hand in picking the right things,” said Davis.
A second service Davis said he foresees for a new River City is a police force.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office covers that territory now, but Davis said he’d like to see more of a presence.
“If you look, they don’t hardly patrol that area,” Davis said.
And, he said he believes a police force “creates a community cohesiveness.”
Davis said he’s not sure what about the third service at this point.
But the police force, cost for constructing government buildings and paying city employees wouldn’t come without an extra cost to the people in River City.
Currently, residents in the area that would become part of River City live in unincorporated Douglas County. Most residents pay school taxes and county taxes. If the new city comes to fruition, they’d have to pay city taxes as well.
Davis said it’s way too soon to know what the additional taxes for River City might be. However, a person who lives in a $150,000 home in the city of Douglasville is paying $346.77 in city property taxes this year, said Karin Callan, finance director for Douglasville. Douglasville residents also pay a bond millage tax for the new public safety building. That’s all on top of the school and county taxes.
Of course, Douglasville has almost twice the population of the proposed River City. But rather than shy away from the issue of residents paying additional taxes, Davis said the extra services would be worth it.
“Here’s my deal: If I’m getting represented fairly in government and my city’s going in the right way and I’m safe, I don’t mind paying,” said Davis. “It’s a no brainer.”
As to where the city government might be located, Davis said he’s thought about Post Road at I-20 on the north end or the area around the Foxhall Resort and Sporting Club on the south side.
Douglas County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Worthan would live in River City if the boundaries stay as they’re currently drawn.
Worthan said he’s heard the “rumors kicked around” but doesn’t know much about it.
“Is Foxhall within that area?,” Worthan asked. When told that it is, his response was: “Interesting.”
Worthan then expressed a concern that Davis also had about the city of Chattahoochee Hills, which is just across the river in Fulton County, trying to annex the area around Foxhall in south Douglas. Foxhall is looking to add a Westin Resort that is projected to generate sizable tax revenue if the project gets off the ground.
Worthan and Douglasville Mayor Harvey Persons both said they’d be in favor of putting the referendum to create River City on the ballot and letting the people decide.
That referendum would likely be in 2016, Davis said. But whether the people who live in the communities of Fairplay and Bill Arp and Winston are even interested in voting is something that remains to be seen. Davis figures he’ll have a better idea once the public has had a chance to give input on Dec. 5.
“Once we start these meetings, we’ll know,” he said.