Court ends Atlanta’s bid for lucrative South Fulton industrial district


A battle to bring a prized piece of unincorporated South Fulton County into the city of Atlanta has come to an end, at least for now.

The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday dismissed the city’s efforts to annex Fulton County Industrial District, about 4,800 acres in the county’s southwestern edge.

The city has long had its eye on the property, which could add $18 million to $19 million to tax rolls by one account, but legislation dating back to the late 1970s has prohibited its annexation.

Atlanta officials filed a lawsuit last year calling the prohibition invalid and a Superior Court judge agreed. But the state Supreme Court on Monday, in a unanimous decision, said because Atlanta never passed a local ordinance to annex the property there was nothing to resolve.

“We remand for the trial court to dismiss this nonjusticiable lawsuit,” Justice Keith Blackwell wrote in Monday’s decision.

A spokesperson for the city said the court did not answer its ultimate question — Atlanta’s right to expand its boundaries — so the city will have to review its options.

“The city of Atlanta brought suit in 2015 seeking a judicial declaration of its rights as a municipality and as a land owner,” the spokesperson said. “While the city prevailed in the Superior Court of Fulton County, the Georgia Supreme Court today ruled that the (Fulton Industrial District’s) viability is not ripe. The Georgia Supreme Court expressed no view as to the merits of the city’s ultimate legal position that the FID legislation is invalid. “

A spokesperson for the county could not be reached for comment.

The news comes as South Fulton residents will vote next month on forming a city for the area, which would take in parts of unincorporated Fulton.

The Fulton County Industrial District is an area of high-value development that brings with it lucrative taxable income, according to Gil Prado, executive director of the Fulton Industrial Community Improvement District.

The corridor, one of the largest in the eastern United States, includes more than 550 warehouses, 46 million square feet of industrial space and employs 20,000 workers, Prado said. It also has a payroll of more than $1 billion and brings in about $18 million to $19 million in property taxes to Fulton County.

It’s been an attractive target for Atlanta annexation for decades, but a 1979 local constitutional amendment protected it from being gobbled up or incorporated by the city of Atlanta.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has not been shy about his interest in pursuing the area. He has sent letters to some in the district — and to some South Fulton residents — promoting Atlanta’s “open-door policy of welcoming property owners and residents who are interested in annexing into Atlanta city limits.”

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