Gwinnett County man files lawsuits to stop new City of Mulberry

A Gwinnett County man has filed two lawsuits trying to stop the creation of the new city of Mulberry.

Last month, residents went to the polls to support the creation of the city, which would sit in the northeast corner of the county.

State Sen. Clint Dixon helped craft the legislation that put Mulberry cityhood on the ballot in response to what he said was growing frustrations over traffic and overdevelopment of the area. 

"Constituents here in the area - they were concerned about the out-of-control growth," he told FOX 5 before the vote. "There’s nothing more American than putting a proposal out and letting the citizens vote." 

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The cityhood proposal received bipartisan support in the legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp in February.

At the ballot box, 57% of voters - or a little more than 4,500 - approved the incorporation.

In the new lawsuits, which were filed last week, Stephen Hughes has sued to stop Mulberry from holding city council elections in November, arguing that the Senate bill which put Mulberry to a vote was unconstitutional. 

In his second lawsuit, he is suing individual members of the Gwinnett County Board of Registration and Elections and other officials to stop the election.

Hughes and his lawyer claim that the bill has created a city that can't collect a property tax, which they say the Georgia Supreme Court has prohibited in the past.  

"The General Assembly can only regulate a city's constitutional authority to tax through general law, not local law. SB 333 is plainly a local law, so its restrictions on taxation must be immediately struck down," wrote Attorney Allen Lightcap, who represents Hughes.

The lawsuit also argues that the Senate bill "unconstitutionally forces the City of Mulberry to affirmatively exercise some of its Home Rule powers."

Hughes had previously challenged the referendum but withdrew the challenge in May.