While shifting national politics played out in Tuesday's midterm election, a local Georgia fight raged on over whether part of a city could secede to form its own, wealthier municipality... and perhaps gain a coveted chain restaurant with avocado egg rolls in the process.
Some residents of Eagle’s Landing, a neighborhood in the city of Stockbridge that includes a country club of the same name and numerous six-figure-salary households, have hoped to annex a brand new city—one that they hoped would attract such tony establishments as the much-revered Cheesecake Factory.
The past decade has seen a trend of new cities forming in the Atlanta suburbs from unincorporated land, but this would have been different. A coalition from Eagle's Landing has aimed to cobble together a new city out of patches of disjointed unincorporated land—along with some land that is very much already part of Stockbridge, including the city's main commercial corridor. Doing so would cripple the economy in Stockbridge, which just elected its first black mayor and all-black city council last year. (Whether or not this constitutes "white flight" was a matter of debate leading up to the election—Stockbridge is predominantly black, and the city of Eagle's Landing would have been as well, but the split would have reshaped the demographics so that African-Americans were a smaller portion of the voting population in both cities. Either way, it is a clear socioeconomic split, and seems to be intentionally so.)
But back to the Cheesecake Factory's role in all of this. Here, allow Vikki Consiglio, the chair of the Committee for the City of Eagle’s Landing, to explain what she and her committee were trying to do, through the lens of chain restaurants:
“I see the Waffle Houses and the McDonald’s, the Walmart and the dollar stores,” she told the Los Angeles Times about the parts of Stockbridge that she and her comrades hoped to distance themselves from. Speaking to CityLab, she lamented a similar slate of restaurants, adding in Bojangles, and saying, "And I was like, why can’t we get a Cheesecake Factory, or a P.F. Chang’s or a Houston’s? We have areas that have high incomes, so what’s the deal?”
The Cheesecake Factory, in particular, seems to be a source of near-obsession for Consiglio, to the point that I'm not even sure it is a euphemism about class—or representative of a broader concern about attracting upscale amenities. Based on her comments, it seems possible that she's been trying to contort municipal lines, disrupt the lives of 29,000 citizens, and set a dangerous precedent for secession all so that she doesn't have to drive an hour (or more in traffic!) to get her Reese's Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake at the closest Factory some 30 miles north in Atlanta.
According to CityLab, Consiglio's crusade to split Eagle's Landing off from Stockbridge started in 2016, after she says the Cheesecake Factory opted not to open a location there because the median household income was only $54,769 (it would have been $128,000 in the hypothetical city of Eagle's Landing). CityLab reached out to the Cheesecake Factory for comment on the matter, but it would neither confirm nor deny that claim.
“It came up to, you know, form a city because that's the only way you're going to do it,” Consiglio told CityLab. “And if this could happen, we’d have more control of our area, and we’d get to see what comes in here. We’d get to control zoning. We’d get to control code enforcement. Then we can hopefully hold the carrot out and say we want a Cheesecake Factory.”
Unfortunately for Consiglio, not everyone felt the same desperation to woo the mall staple with stupid portion sizes. Even though the residents of the area that would have remained Stockbridge were not allowed to vote on the matter, it still failed spectacularly—71 percent voted against the proposition.
But if it's just cheesecake you're after, Vikki: Don't worry, we got you.