DeKalb Farmers Market hosting Briarcliff meetings
DeKalb Farmers Market owner Robert Blazer would rather stay in unincorporated DeKalb County, but if new cities form around him, he may not have a choice.
Blazer recently said that he’d rather join a bigger city, like the proposed city of Briarcliff, if he’s forced to choose. The notoriously reclusive Farmers Market owner will open up his store this week to allow representatives from the Briarcliff cityhood movement to make their pitch to other local businesses owners.
The meetings will be held Oct. 9, 7 pm to 9 pm, Oct. 11, 3 pm to 5 pm, Oct. 13, 7 pm to 9 pm and Oct. 16, 7 pm to 9 pm. Kathleen Andres, a property owner and business owner who wants to join Briarcliff, will be moderating the meetings.
“This go round is primarily for businesses, because businesses have different concerns than the residences and businesses do not get to vote on who annexes them,” she told Decaturish. “So a business could find themselves being annexed into a city that their taxes could go up dramatically, but they have no voice in that. So we are having meetings for businesses at the DeKalb Farmers Market to basically inform businesses, if they were to go into the city of Briarcliff, what they could expect and what that would mean.”
The potential benefits listed on the event announcement are local control over zoning, better permitting, a more visible police presence and “open and accountable government.”
DeKalb County Farmers Market and commercial properties along East Ponce de Leon, DeKalb Industrial Way, Laredo, Pine Street and Rio Circle are currently in Avondale Estates’ annexation map. But the property owners are generally in agreement that they don’t want to be in Avondale. They disagree about where they want to go.
Decatur Self Storage owner Mike Easterwood has organized a petition and collected the signatures of the owners of 41 properties who would like to join Decatur. Blazer hasn’t signed the petition.
But Decatur isn’t exactly chomping at the bit for the properties who signed Easterwood’s petition.
Decatur city leaders have been reluctant to go after properties in Avondale’s annexation plan, but Easterwood said he’s been told there’s no written agreement between the cities.
The reluctance of Decatur to express an interest in the Rio Circle petition is a little strange, given that Decatur admittedly needs more of a commercial tax base. It also doesn’t look like Avondale’s annexation plan has any support or momentum.
In March, state Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale, introduced an annexation bill that would’ve put the commercial properties around DeKalb Farmers Market and several residential neighborhoods on the ballot for an annexation vote. She did so at the request of former Avondale mayor Ed Rieker, who admitted during a contentious Oct. 1 work session that there had never been a public discussion about the bill before he asked Drenner to introduce it. Drenner pulled Avondale’s annexation bill after the Lakeside cityhood bill failed.
News about Drenner’s bill took many by surprise. Rieker, along with the Avondale Estates City Commission, apologized for it profusely during the Oct. 1 meeting.
Even more surprising was Rieker’s sudden resignation the next day.
Rieker, who had been meeting personally with neighborhoods about annexing into Avondale, announced he is leaving to take a university teaching job. Drenner said she is reluctant to introduce another annexation bill without community support.
Avondale’s flailing and Briarcliff’s interest in the commercial property in Avondale’s plan hasn’t phased Decatur’s elected officials.
Easterwood attended the Oct. 6 City Commission meeting and presented the Rio Circle petition. Baskett smiled, but remained noncommittal.
“We appreciate that,” he told Easterwood. “It looks like you’ve done an excellent job in preparing your petition. The only thing I can tell you is, we’re going through a process as you’re well aware, a master planning process, and in that process we have told a lot of potential petitioners that we will be looking at the petitions, and I don’t know the date, but it’s in our schedule. We will look at this and consider it in that schedule, along with any other petitions we receive.”
Easterwood made the point again.
“I just want to reiterate, it’s all commercial property,” he said.
That made the room break out laughing, including the commissioners.
“Thank you for that clarification,” Baskett said.