Decatur annexation plan delayed
The city of Decatur has delayed releasing its updated annexation master plan.
City officials previously announced the final annexation master plan would be completed by Dec. 1. However, there was a death in City Manager Peggy Merriss’ family, which delayed the release of the master plan.
Merriss updated the City Commission during the Dec. 1 commission meeting, thanking everyone for their sympathy and patience. She said it will be released on Dec. 8, a day before the City Schools of Decatur Board of Education considers passing a resolution in support of the plan.
City and School officials have been grappling with the plan for several weeks, trying to balance a need for additional space with a surge in enrollment growth in the city’s schools. Decatur’s focus on annexation is part of a broader issue of new cities being created in DeKalb County. Because of the general dysfunction of DeKalb County, groups behind the proposed cities of LaVista Hills and Tucker are trying to get bills passed in the 2015 General Assembly to allow for a vote on their proposals.
But their maps are in conflict. LaVista Hills’ map also conflicts with annexation plans by the city of Brookhaven and a push from some in the Druid Hills Neighborhood to annex into Atlanta. The House Governmental Affairs Committee Charwoman Rep. Amy Carter, R-Valdosta recently appointed five members to a Cityhood Subcommittee on Governmental Affairs to settle the maps. The panel includes Decatur Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver. The subcommittee will hold a public hearing on Dec. 3 and is supposed to complete its work by Dec. 31.
The Decatur schools system’s current enrollment is 4,336 students. A consultant’s report on enrollment estimates that the city’s school system will grow to 7,398 students by 2020 without annexation in a high-growth scenario. If the city is able to annex the 1.6 square miles in its current plan, it would increase that number by 747.
Decatur has been adamant that the final plan won’t look much different from the one that’s been on the table for the last couple of years. It includes a large portion of commercial areas on the city’s northern border, property that includes the Suburban Plaza and the Emory Commons.
While the city has an acknowledged need for more commercial real estate, it hasn’t openly pursued property in the Rio Circle area that’s in Avondale Estates annexation map. Some of those property owners have petitioned the city anyway, in hopes of finding a receptive audience among City Commissioners. So far, there’s been no hint that the city’s leadership will change its mind.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution recently reported that Avondale Estates Mayor Terry Giager will grab lunch with Rio Circle property owners and that Decatur Mayor Jim Baskett will meet with Medlock Park residents. Residents of Medlock Park, which isn’t in any cityhood map or annexation plan, have complained that the city wants commercial areas that serve its neighborhood without having to take the more than 1,000 homes in Medlock.
Medlock has been discouraged from petitioning to join the city, and it’s not clear whether the meetings with Baskett will change that situation.