DeKalb County: Mapping the battleground

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt November 23, 2014
A sampling of some of the overlapping boundaries we've had to navigate.

A sampling of some of the overlapping boundaries we’ve had to navigate.

The thought occurred to me as I left an annexation meeting in the Laurel Ridge Shamrock neighborhood.

I needed a map. It should show where the new city and annexation proposals in DeKalb County overlap. It should show the locations of the neighborhoods and schools affected by them.

There was just one problem. I had no idea how to make one.

I put out the call on social media. As luck would have it, a reader, Andrew Feury was already creating one using Google Maps. Like me, he has no dog in this fight. He lives in Kirkwood and nothing will change for him under any of the proposals on the table. I live in Decatur, so nothing would immediately change for me either. We’re both spectators of this perplexing puzzle game that’s going on around us.

“I was just following it,” Andrew told me. “I have some friends who live in unincorporated DeKalb. It’s more interesting to watch when it’s not happening to you.”

He sent me the map the next day. I published it soon after. I informed people that the map is a work in progress and asked for their suggestions on how to make it better.

This is the most up-to-date version of our map. It contains a category in the drop-down menu showing five different contested areas. By selecting or un-selecting this category, you can see a version of the map that contains the overlapping regions. Additionally, if you click on one of the contested areas from the drop down menu – like LaVista Hills, Brookhaven and Together in Atlanta – it will take you to the highlighted section of that map.

Check it out:

It’s not perfect, by any means. For one, we aren’t able to use Google’s Map editor tools to separate the map by layers so users could check or un-check a box for each one, something we’re both pretty sure was offered in prior versions of the Google Maps editor. The map is subject to change depending on the latest developments in the state Legislature.

There’s been a fair amount of arm-twisting and politicking from the various cityhood and annexation groups since we published it.

I’ve been besieged by representatives of these groups, haggling about what should be in this map and what shouldn’t, like a football coach trying to overturn a bad call.

Once I realized that Andrew was actually going to be helping me navigate political disputes, I thought the only humane thing to do was to pay him. As part of the deal, Andrew is helping me keep the map up to date as this story develops and has added a tag linking the map back to this website. Our subscribers, who subsidize this journalism project for a mere $12.99 $6 a month, help make things like this possible.

If you appreciate our efforts to keep you informed about this stuff, please consider becoming a subscriber.

The map is pretty revealing.

For example, the exclusion of the Medlock Park neighborhood from cityhood or annexation map is particularly striking.

“It’s like, wow every single one of these cities is going out of their way to avoid Medlock Park,” Andrew said.

Deciding what to include in the map and what to reject has been difficult. For simplicity’s sake, I decided to ask Andrew to only include things in the map that have a shot of making it through the Legislature in the 2015 session. Some groups, like Save Tucker, have their own maps but as far as we know they aren’t being seriously considered at the legislative level. The same is true for longer-range annexation plans like Clarkston and Lithonia. We did modify the map to reflect the most-recent voter-approved annexation in Clarkston.

Every time we modify the map, it becomes more complex and sorting through it becomes more complicated. Andrew asked me to remind readers that each section of the map contains a link back to the source material. If you want more detail, or if you want to check our work, you should click those links and inspect each plan.

I plan to add a section to our Decaturish Database that will serve as a static page on the annexation issue. Here you will find this map, as well as information about the different cityhood groups and annexation plans. You’ll also find contact info for the folks who serve on the House Governmental Affairs subcommittee on cityhood.

Decaturish will not take an editorial position on the cityhood and annexation issue. We will not support one plan over another. We feel our role as a news organization is to give you facts, not be a cheerleader or antagonist.

My own personal opinion on the subject is fixing DeKalb County government would be infinitely simpler than trying to carve up the county in a way that’s fair to all parties involved. As it stands, some groups will win and some will lose when the dust settles. But county government will be with us in whether cityhood happens or not. Its dysfunction, along with the struggles of the county’s school system, is the impetus for all of this. Fixing it should be top priority, not an afterthought. It should be something that members of both parties can agree to, at least philosophically.

We hope this map will illuminate and not confuse the issue.

“We’re trying to make sense of the chaos,” Andrew said.


About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • DecaturishFan

    Dan, thanks to you and to Andrew for the map. It’s extremely helpful. I had no idea there was an overlap between City of South DeKalb and Tucker! One question though, is the Stonecrest effort still active? Its last Facebook post was more than a year ago and it failed the financial viability test.

    • I believe so. At the City of South DeKalb meeting I attended there was a representative from Stonecrest there, and the City of South DeKalb map intentionally excludes this area.

      • smithpop

        Dan, will you be going to another CCCSD/City of South DeKalb meeting? After you left, there was additional discussion about how they are strategizing to ensure that they will pass the financial viability test. There was a mention in the AJC of Dr. Rice submitting their map to Rep Carter on 11/19, but they don’t seem to be getting much coverage. During an AE meeting that Jill attended, they quoted Rep Mike Jacobs at a DMA meeting as having the best organized and most advanced plan of any of the cityhood movements currently going on in DeKalb. Thank you for the coverage of this!

        • I will if I know about it and am available to attend. I’ve given all the cityhood groups access to our community calendar. If you know of any meetings you should email me at

          • Bernie

            Rep. Jacobs’ remarks during the DeKalb Municipalization Association meeting were seen as pertaining to both the City of Stonecrest effort and CCCSD, inasmuch as they jointly presented mutually agreed-upon maps to him, and thereby removed their shared boundary as an issue for Rep. Amy Carter’s arbitration panel to consider.

      • Bernie

        Yes, the Stonecrest effort is active. The Stonecrest City Alliance, led by Jason Lary, revised its proposed boundary in order to reduce population, while at the same time retaining Lithonia Industrial Park and the Stonecrest Mall commercial area. The proposal was further revised by changing the mix of city services. The revised proposal is under contract with the Carl Vinson Institute for a new feasibility study, which SCI anticipates will be favorable.
        Several weeks ago CCCSD (City of South DeKalb) and SCI (City of Stonecrest) reached an agreement regarding their shared boundary, and jointly submitted signed copies of their maps to Rep. Mike Jacobs. Subsequently, on November 19 they jointly submitted the same maps to Rep. Amy Carter’s office.
        Jason Lary recently gave updates about the City of Stonecrest to the DeKalb House Delegation during its Town Hall at the Porter Sanford Center, and also spoke to the Municipalization and Annexation Subcommittee of the DeKalb Operations Task Force. Current maps of the City of Stonecrest and the City of South DeKalb were distributed to the Subcommittee members at the latter meeting.

  • abmagic

    Stone Mountain has an annexation map that overlaps with South DeKalb in a couple of residential neighborhoods and with South DeKalb AND Tucker in the areas you have reflected South DeKalb overlaps with Tucker. The SM city council approved sending the map to the GA committee at last week’s work session. In the realm if viability I would put it above S DeKalb and Stonecrest bit slightly behind Tucker and LaVista. Send a note and I will send a copy. Not much public info (other than the original wide sweeping annexation map that included all of Smoke Rise and most of the Industrial Parks which has been abandoned) as an existing city cannot.openly advocate for Annexation like a new city can for city hood.

  • DAL

    So what happens to the areas that are not claimed, i.e. Scottdale?

    • The delegation members have said they will not leave unincorporated islands in DeKalb County. I suspect the committee will proposed some “shotgun marriages” for places like Medlock and Scottdale. They’ll be in a city one way or another, assuming the cities move forward this year.

      • Judd

        Yes, I believe it’s illegal to create an island. I don’t know if the legislature could do it without changing the law.

        So what’s going on here? Is it that Lavista Hills doesn’t want that much more residential without the nearby commercial that Decatur is looking at? Maybe if the legislature tried to force Decatur to take all that residential too it would be a deal-breaker for Decatur and then LH could take it all? (I’m thinking here about Medlock, not Scottdale.)

        Great work.

        • HB

          Lavista HIlls (at least the Briarcliff folks) do want Medlock. There were annexation conflicts before that kept them from being included at first, (out of political courtesy, not exclusion) but if Druid Hills etc/ go to ATL, Medlock will be welcomed. This is according to a Lavista Hills official, on their Facebook page.

          Part of the problem has been foot-dragging and very differing opinions expressed by MANA residents. If Medlock wants in (and as a nearby resident, I hope they do), they need to put out an official statement to that effect now. Time to choose your poison.

          If Medlock and Scottdale aren’t part of Lavista HIlls, I’d be inclined to vote against it. They are part of this community, far more than Pleasantdale is. #KeepNorthDecaturTogether.

      • DAL

        thanks, and thanks for keeping up with this issue.

    • travelingfool

      Midway Woods would fit into this category as well, if City of DeKalb comes to fruition, which I don’t believe it will. We’ve had a few folks try to annex but for the most part Decatur doesn’t want the entire neighborhood and we have an active 65+ that would make a referendum a mighty close call.

  • Michael

    Reality, everyone wants commercial areas to pay for the residential annexations. Commercial zones do not get to vote on annexations. Taxation without representation is what it is called! If memory serves, a revolution was fought on these grounds? I digress, commercial areas only option is to attempt to influence where they go….. The trick is to pick an area that has shown it knows how to administer the valuable commercial districts. That includes a realization that many jobs are tied these areas and value killing administration adds nothing to the equation! Here’s hoping that wanting commercial for the money does not mean that an attempt to rezone property to lower uses is in the offing? I find it interesting that many want commercial except when a rezoning is considered, then they fight against it!

  • Terry

    A co-worker lives in Medlock Park. I was telling him about your article and he pointed out that Medlock Park IS included in the proposed City of LaVista HIlls map. Can you clarify? Thanks for all your hard work!

    • You’re welcome Terry. Based on the map above, Medlock is not included in anyone’s map.

  • Marty

    How about Scottdale? No one wants Scottdale! Why do you suppose? Talk about cherry picking!!!

    • Not happy

      I live in a decent part of Scottdale and am finding our island status disappointing. We just have no clue what is going to happen and it’s fairly unsettling. The way these school districts shake out could precipitate a move made harder because of losing a good high school. Just crossing fingers.

  • jo

    Reference the unincorporated islands a blogger from Midwaywoods had posted on his blog a letter from the legislature’s council that said the law only applied to existing cities at the time the law was written. So my guess is the legislature would have to update that law to make it enforcable relative to any new cities. The Druid Hills survey has about 50% favoring staying unicorporated. A simple compromise that could put all this to bed is the city model of Peachtree Corners, Berkley Lake, Sugar Hill or Stockbridge. Everyone gets some local control and the unwanted areas aren’t forced into accepting diminished police and infrastructure service.

  • HB

    Lavista HIlls (at least the Briarcliff contingent) say they do want Medlock. There were annexation conflicts before that kept them from being included at first, (out of political courtesy, not exclusion) but if Druid Hills etc/ go to ATL, Medlock will be welcomed. This is according to a Lavista Hills official, on their Facebook page.

    Part of the problem has been foot-dragging and very differing opinions expressed by Medlock residents. If Medlock wants in (and as a nearby resident, I hope they do), MANA needs to put out an official statement to that effect now. Time to choose your poison.

    If Medlock and Scottdale aren’t part of Lavista HIlls, I’d be inclined to vote against it. They are part of this community, far more than Pleasantdale is. #KeepNorthDecaturTogether.

  • Thanks, Vicotria. I’ve emailed Andrew. He’s out of town this week and won’t be able to make changes until next week. Appreciate you calling it to our attention.

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