Grabby – Avondale wants DeKalb Farmers Market
This story has been updated.
During the recent debate over cityhood in DeKalb County, most of the attention focused on what other cities wanted.
Briarcliff and Lakeside wanted Northlake Mall. Decatur wanted to annex property to the northeast, including the Suburban Plaza shopping center.
Avondale Estates had wants, too.
Specifically, it wanted to annex Your DeKalb Farmers Market. The Farmers Market recently began a project to expand its store by a million square feet. In addition to that, the city also has its eye on several residential neighborhoods, including Forrest Hills located to the west of the current city limits.
During the drive to create new cities in DeKalb County, Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, filed an annexation bill to expand Avondale Estates.
“My feelings about the annexation bills were, as the cityhood movement was proceeding, we had those three competing bills for Lakeside, Tucker and Briarcliff,” Drenner said. “My feeling was the existing cities should not be left out.”
To download the annexation Bill, click this link: Annexation Bill
The bill didn’t make it out of the 2014 session.
If Drenner’s bill had passed this year, the annexation question would’ve been considered in a public referendum. There’s also another way the city can annex property. It’s called the 60 percent method. The city of Decatur recently annexed the Parkwood neighborhood using this method. It requires petitioners to get the signatures representing 60 percent of land owners and registered voters.
Robert Blazer, owner of the DeKalb Farmers Market, would have to be on board for Avondale Estates to annex his property using the 60 percent method. Blazer did not return a message seeking comment.
Avondale Estates wasn’t the only party interested in DeKalb Farmers Market, Drenner said.
“I met with them. The county met with them. Briarcliff met with them. Avondale Estates met with them,” Drenner said. “The last time I talked to them, they wanted to stay with the county. They seem to be indecisive.”
There’s one omission from that list of potential suitors: the city of Decatur.
Decatur Mayor Jim Baskett said via email that the city wasn’t interested in the DeKalb Farmers Market. He said the city knew about Drenner’s annexation bill for Avondale Estates.
“We have been aware of the proposal and none of the area has been a part of our long term discussions,” Baskett said.
He hasn’t yet responded to a follow-up question about why the city wouldn’t be interested in the Farmers Market.
Mayor Ed Rieker has been involved in the annexation discussions. He’s attended meetings in Forrest Hills to talk to residents there. Rieker hasn’t returned several messages left for him seeking comment for this story.
During the April 21 City Commission meeting, Rieker did speak about the possibility of annexing Forrest Hills after a resident asked him about it during public comments.
Here’s what Rieker said, according to an audio recording of the April 21 meeting posted on the city’s website:
“There was a bill that was dropped back in February along with some other cities dropping annexation bills and nothing came of it.
“The Forrest Hills (Neighborhood) Association has asked me to talk to them twice about annexation. I met with them last week or the week before and the county was also there. (Commissioner) Larry Johnson, and almost every chief operating whatever was there (and) about 30 people in the room, and they’re interested. They’re hearing things about new cities that are going to possibly surround Avondale Estates, so a lot of neighbors are talking about joining an existing municipality. We’ve met with Stratford Green last week or the week before. I’ve also met with Katie Kerr. There’s a 60 percent of annexation method. It’s difficult to do on a residential parcel by parcel basis I think that’s what they’re interested in doing. They initiated it.”
Rieker did not mention the Farmers Market annexation proposal during the commission meeting. He did discuss it with members of the Forrest Hills neighborhood in February, according to minutes posted on the neighborhood association’s website.
According to the meeting summary, Rieker told Forrest Hill residents that the city is “also at looking at extending (its) border north down Laredo up to and including the Farmer’s market. This would bring in more commercial revenue which Avondale is looking for to assist in future plans and to assist in annexing the local residential areas. For the residential annexations, the increase in tax revenue is about a wash once extra cost are taken into account. Commercial annexations assist with the extra cost.”
Jessica Parilla, treasurer of the Forrest Hills Neighborhood Association, said the neighborhood has about 250 homes. She said there are “strong feelings” among the neighbors about the idea of moving into Avondale Estates. Some residents want to stay in DeKalb. Others don’t want to be left behind if new cities form around them.
“It just seemed like there wasn’t a whole lot for DeKalb to offer other than what we’re getting,” she said. “Some people don’t want their taxes to go up at all. Some people don’t care.”
Parilla said that the city never formally approached the Forrest Hills neighborhood about becoming part of Avondale Estates. She said a new resident in the neighborhood kick-started the process.
“Late last year, a person moves into the neighborhood who happened to be a friend of one of the Avondale Estates commissioners and she got a flyer from them that said Avondale was interested in annexing all these neighborhoods,” Parilla said. “She gave it to us for our consideration we emailed it out to the neighborhood listserv. The feedback was incredible. People were either wildly passionate for it or wildly passionate against it.”
To download the flyer that was sent to Forrest Hills residents, click this link: Joining_AE_Presentation
Correction: An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information about whether Drenner plans to reintroduce this bill.