ATLANTA — Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin is asking residents who live in unincorporated parts of south Fulton County to consider being annexed into the city.

With the offer, Atlanta joins other cities in the area trying to annex unincorporated parts of the county. The land grab comes after the creation of the city of Sandy Springs north of Atlanta.

Already, four south Fulton County cities have adopted plans to annex neighboring areas rather than let 117,000 acres be swept into the proposed new cities of South Fulton or Chattahoochee Hill Country. Residents will decide whether to create those cities in July 2007.

In a letter this week to the City Council but clearly directed to south Fulton County residents, Franklin urged some of the 50,000 people in unincorporated areas to consider becoming part of Atlanta.

“Our doors are open,” she wrote. She said she wanted residents to “strongly consider joining a healthy and prosperous city of Atlanta,” and she touted a massive project to upgrade the city’s water and sewer lines, economic development and falling crime rates.

Atlanta’s offer is worth considering, said Harvey Davis, a resident of the Sandtown community near both East Point and Atlanta. The community of 17,000 has talked about whether it should become part of Atlanta.

“There’s a lot to be said about the financial viability of Atlanta,” Davis said. “It’s a lot to think about. ... There are people who are interested.”

Franklin aide Robert Ashe said the city’s Finance Department already has determined that the addition of at least part of Sandtown would cost less for the city to service than it would provide in tax revenues. So the city would gain from annexation.

But the Fulton County commissioner who represents south Fulton County was annoyed by Atlanta’s overtures.

“If Atlanta wants to position themselves as an alternative, that’s their business,” said Fulton County Commissioner Bill Edwards, who has tried to discourage cities from annexing land in the area. “However, I take it as a direct act of disrespect if they undertake a campaign to pursue the people of south Fulton.”

The political upheaval in south Fulton County comes on the heels of last year’s incorporation of Sandy Springs in the north. The taxes generated in Sandy Springs subsidized much of the work the county did all across unincorporated Fulton County. The new city took with it nearly $70 million in taxes that once went to the county.

Residents in unincorporated areas feared Fulton County would be forced to raise taxes or cut vital services to county police, fire, parks and planning. That started efforts to incorporate across in north and south Fulton County.

Organizers of the proposed city of South Fulton are nervously watching the debate, fearing Atlanta and the other cities will pick off all the valuable property and leave them with the scraps.

“We will oppose every piece of annexation,” said Rex Renfrow, a nursery owner who is helping organize the proposed city of South Fulton. “They think the only way to expand is to go outside their boundaries. I don’t agree.”

The last major annexation for Atlanta was in 1952 when it pulled the community of Buckhead into city limits.

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