LaVista quietly concedes territory to Brookhaven

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt December 8, 2014
Left to right: Matt Lewis, of Together in Atlanta; Mary Kay Woodworth, LaVista Hills YES; Allen Venet, LaVista Hills YES; Alex Wan, Atlanta City Council District 6; District 6 DeKalb County Commissioner Kathie Gannon; DeKalb County CEO Lee May; and District 2 County Commissioner Jeff Rader. The Moderator of the Dec. 8 Town Hall is Dan Wright, standing behind the podium. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

Left to right: Matt Lewis, of Together in Atlanta; Mary Kay Woodworth, LaVista Hills YES; Allen Venet, LaVista Hills YES; Alex Wan, Atlanta City Council District 6; District 6 DeKalb County Commissioner Kathie Gannon; DeKalb County CEO Lee May; and District 2 County Commissioner Jeff Rader. The Moderator of the Dec. 8 Town Hall is Dan Wright, standing behind the podium. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

Brookhaven’s City Council on Monday, Dec. 8, annexed commercial property that the proposed city of LaVista Hills had in its map.

LaVista Hills’ biggest champions – Mary Kay Woodworth and Allen Venet – weren’t at Brookhaven’s City Council meeting, however. They were at Young Israel on Lavista Road speaking during a town hall meeting on cityhood and annexation.

Brookhaven unanimously approved the annexation of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Executive Park, according to the Brookhaven Reporter.

A crowd that met the textbook description of “standing room only” was in the room with Venet and Woodworth at Young Israel. The LaVista Park, Merry Hills, North Druid Hills, & North Amanda civic associations a called the town hall meeting. These neighborhoods are overlapped by the LaVista Hills map and annexation maps by a group called Together in Atlanta, which is advocating for annexing part of the Druid Hills High cluster into the city of Atlanta.

Brookhaven City Councilman Joe Gebbia had previously confirmed he would attend the Dec. 8 town hall at Young Israel, according to an announcement about the event. No one from Brookhaven city government attended. Toward the end of the town hall, someone in the audience announced that Brookhaven was holding a special called meeting at that very moment for the final vote on annexing CHOA and Executive Park.

Venet and Woodworth had previously asked Brookhaven not to annex these properties. Decaturish followed-up with them after the town hall and asked if they knew about the Brookhaven City Council vote.

“Yes, but were previously committed to community meeting at (Young) Israel,” Woodworth said. “We have factored that annexation into our calculations regarding borders with Tucker and other areas and feel that our proposal will continue to be feasible.  We will need to update our study in near future.”

Venet said LaVista Hills supporters “are very disappointed” but “respect the process.”

“In fact we look at this effort by commercial property owners to opt for city zoning and permitting as an endorsement of the need for cityhood to promote smart growth for the entire county,” Venet said. “The entire situation remains very fluid, but we continue to believe that our proposal will be fiscally viable.”

The Brookhaven City Council’s move puts even more pressure on a five-member panel appointed by the House Governmental Affairs Committee to sort out the boundary disputes between LaVista and its proposed rival city, Tucker. Both of their maps overlap in the Northlake Mall area.

State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, spoke at the town hall meeting. Oliver, who is on the panel, said the panel’s charge has nothing to do with negotiating competing annexation proposals, like Brookhaven’s or the ones being presented by other cities like Avondale Estates and Decatur. Oliver is hopeful the two sides can agree without the panel’s help.

“I hear a lot of good faith efforts moving forward on negotiations between he proposed cities and proposed annexations,” Oliver said. “Before we jump into the business of arbitrating those disputes, we’re giving it more time.”

The panel has until Dec. 31 to reach a decision.

Many of the people in the room at Young Israel were in favor of suspending the process to give everyone involved more time. The loudest rounds of applause came when the moderator, Dan Wright, conducted an informal poll asking residents if they wanted to delay the process. Many in the room began filing out before the meeting had concluded. By the time representatives of LaVista Hills, Together in Atlanta and DeKalb County finished talking, there were only about 20 minutes left for questions.

“Well, they don’t give a lot of information on it and I don’t think anything is being thought through fully,” said Chris Johnson, who lives in North Druid Hills. “There are a lot of issues with public services and things they say are going to be cheaper. But I’d like to see a little more information on it. I think they should wait.”

Sheila Elkon also attended the meeting. She favors joining a city.

“I’m still leaning toward the city of LaVista,” Elkon said. “Maybe waiting and learning more is the way to go, but my son lives in Brookhaven, was there before the city and then after the city, and says you just cannot believe the difference that they’ve experienced in police presence, in services. So it sounds like a city would probably be a good option.”

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  • itp only

    just imagine if these city people had to just gone with the original briarcliff plan which created the far more feasible city for over two thirds of us who live inside the perimeter. We would have had our city by now and none of these annexations would have been possible. Of course one could argue that these Lakeside people were never looking into what was best for the overall community but just those outside 285. They have now sucked the Briarcliff people in and have hurt fiscally the majority of us. The area outside 285 is nothing but a money, police and identity drain on us inside 285. Come on Lavista Hills do whats right for the majority and cut the border at 285. Revise your study and lets get this up for a vote.

    • Save Tucker

      The two groups idea is a good cop / bad cop game they were running on you from Day 1. Don’t buy it. Why do you think you should have a city when the majority of your ITP area rents and does not have a long term investment in the future of Northlake? Tucker never wanted to take anything outside our own zip code which has always been known as Tucker. Start your city without our zip code and there is nothing to fight about.

      • Linda

        Smoke Rise is not in the Tucker zip code and it’s part of the proposed city.

      • HB

        Inaccurate. Tucker’s map is currently trying to take parts of 30345 from Atlanta and parts of 30340/1 from Doraville. TCA’s map (up until about 2 years ago) ended at 285, as did half the “historic” maps Tucker presented at the courthouse last week. While they hurried through those historic maps in the presentation, it’s on the video for the public record.

        • notapunk

          HB is correct. Tucker is trying to fudge history in order to grab land that is not historically Tucker. I really don’t understand why the REAL Tucker isn’t good enough. Tucker should stay Tucker and stop trying to be bigger than it is. It will ruin what makes Tucker special.

    • Save Tucker

      Or you could support the compromise map from last session that would have allowed each city to form on a smaller scale, but the question is: why do you want to pay more in taxes if you don’t have to?

      • HB

        Inaccurate. The new cities are paying less in taxes than they were and getting a higher level of responsive services.

  • MAC

    What’s fascinating concerning the LaVista Hills saga are the very different conversations taking place ITP and OTP. I wonder to what degree each side even is aware of what the other side is saying. Here “ITP only” just gave an insightful (and I think wise) appeal that LH think for once about the good of the majority truly impacted by the LH map, and cede to Tucker the OTP overlap (viewed by that commentator as a financial, policing, and identity burden to the 2/3s ITP in the LH map). In other blogs (see Reporter Newspapers for one), I’ve read so many appalling, elitist, classist, and divisive comments from LaVista Hills supporters OTP who scoff viciously at the idea of being associated with Tucker, which they deem as inferior and unworthy of association with some OTP neighborhoods. It’d be interesting to know if those same OTP LH prospects are aware that some (maybe many) ITP see them as a burden, as a liability to the LH master plan and to the fiscal plan of the ITP majority. The burden argument makes sense. Include the OTP overlap, and LH has a 70+ thousand population to manage–now with revenue-rich CHOA and Executive Park firmly in Brookhaven’s hands and out of play and probably more annexations impacting LH to follow. Exclude the OTP overlap from the LH map, and both Tucker and LH have more manageable populations at about 50+ thousand each. Even if a neat and clean dividing line between Tucker and LH is achieved, what will linger are attitudes and identity perceptions, which unfortunately, do more damage and build new dysfunctions on top of the ones that both groups are trying to remedy through cityhood…

    • Spencer

      “…appalling, elitist, classist, and divisive comments” — just like the ones being leveled by those ITP who scoff viciously at the idea of being associated with the OTP areas, which they deem as inferior and unworthy of association with some ITP neighborhoods.

      There’s gold in the close-in OTP areas that are near I-85. Some ITP are just too shortsighted to see it and Tucker would never have any idea how to mine it.
      I don’t live OTP, but I do have friends and co-workers who live in the disputed area, including neighborhoods that have never been a part of “Tucker” in any shape or fashion, nor had they ever been considered as such by Tucker. They are nice, quiet neighborhoods that are simply caught up in the fight. Their residents are far from poor rubes, unless you consider a six-figure income from a downtown Atlanta job as such. There are parts of the area that are blighted. But they won’t be that way forever. And the next boom will bring investment. That area is too conveniently located.
      You can get to Downtown, Buckhead or Dunwoody from Northcrest faster than from Northlake.

      • itp only

        Spencer the point is had the Lakeside people been looking out for whats best for the majority then they would have conceded to Tucker the area outside 285. The facts are they held out for the interests of the minority. In doing so they have cost us people ITP important revenue generating properties that are now lost forever. They also left open the opportunity for Druid Hills to annex to Atlanta which will have major consequences when they need to redistrict. Where you think those kids not taken into Atlanta are going to go? I would not be surprised if they feed into Lakeside which could mean a couple current feeder schools get cut and sent somewhere else. Wanna bet which two they cut? (and send Tucker High Schools way) Its not going to be Oak Grove, Briarlake, Sagamore, Hawthorne or Henderson. Its going to be those schools the furthest away outside 285. With no path to city schools they may end up with their city but lose their school district.

        • Save Tucker!

          That would eliminate their core group of supporters as well as the individual who lives in Millar’s district who asked for the bill to begin with.

      • MAC

        That’s my whole point: there’s an obvious ideological disconnect between the ITP and OTP factions of the LH cityhood model, illustrating a point made by someone else a few messages ago that LH’s rush to the cityhood finish line has left in its wake a “vision void” that makes potential stakeholders very hesitant about buying into it..and that reality has nothing to do with Tucker, which is only guilty of claiming a piece of the pie to achieve cityhood like everyone else. You claim that disputed OTP has zero in common with Tucker. I beg to differ. Intersecting at entry and exit points all along Chamblee-TUCKER Road, disputed OTP has far more in common with Tucker regionally and geographically than it does crossing the width of 285 traveling a significant number of miles to reach Briarcliff, Druid Hills or Laurel Ridge Shamrock. Guaranteed Tucker folks and disputed OTP folks crisscross each other countless times in the daily commute and are standing in the same grocery and restaurant lines on any given day at Embry or Northlake without a second thought. Finally, the idea that Tucker would “never” know how to develop its area is the type of absolutist argument that most of us learn to avoid in elementary school. With the right leadership, community support, and collective effort, Tucker will do just fine. At very least its supporters are unified and in synch with their city’s vision, a crucial building block in this effort, and much more than can be said by the LH camp.

        • Save Tucker!

          The leaders live in Smoke Rise, which is an area that Stone Mountain wanted to annex. Tucker is not being accurately represented. Save Tucker! has attempted to voice the concerns of those who actually live here. We, like you, have not heard any valid argument for why we should support a city. We, like everyone else, are concerned about the origins of these advocacy groups and this idea that we must all support something or risk certain harm. Please remember that anything you believe to be true based on averages or assumptions is not always the case for everyone. Most of our basic beliefs about what the other areas are like probably started with a Realtor pre-recession who was selling us on the area we now live in, so we want the great things they told us to be true and we don’t spend much time about thinking of others. If those who were involved in the huge effort to rid our schools of the corrupt would be given an opportunity to tell you what they have been through, you would be much more interested in the school – city connection as well as the resumes of your city leaders and their own personal ideas about “local control,” which they obviously have a lot of and always have.

          • Contested

            The leaders do not live in Smoke Rise. One of the most active negotiators lives in the Livsey district. Please do not exaggerate.

        • Spencer

          Guaranteed Oak Grove and disputed ITP folks cross paths on a daily basis, too. Their kids also play and go to school together. As for Tucker never knowing how to develop an area near I85, drive the length of Northlake Parkway. It would take a fundamental change in Tucker’s philosophy to get it.

          • MAC

            Spencer–My Tucker-disputed OTP paths crossing scenario responds to your hyperbole that there is and has been no relationship between the two areas. Repeating the same thing over and over still doesn’t make it true. Moreover, no one has suggested that no interactive relationship exists between Oak Grove and disputed ITP. Thank you for that detail all the same. All of the arguments that you’ve put forth about Tucker overextending its reach are equally applicable (even more so) to LaVista Hills. I’m a Tucker supporter, so I know you’re not able to receive my perspective on the matter, but what of your would-be LH ITP neighbors who see LH OTP prospects as a “burden” (their words, not mine) and a property devaluing drain to the larger majority in the LH map? Clearly they associate you with Tucker and sound ready to part ways with you at 285 and move forward in LH without you. Sounds pretty messy to me…Finally, you continue to critique what you narrowly see as Tucker’s lack of developmental philosophy in the area. Your critique itself, though innacurate and biased, still reads Tucker like many people commonly read it–as a city already–effectively BECAUSE of its longstanding history and identity in the area. There’s much irony in your perspective. While you’d admit that Tucker isn’t and never has been a city, you at the same time critique it for its lack of development AS a city. Can’t have it both ways, Spence. Unincorporated status is a major factor among many others in the lack of development of an area. Cityhood incentivizes development because it engenders municipal autonomy and a sense of collective ownership useful in edifying the foundations of a new city. No doubt, Tucker will develop and grow quite nicely as a true city despite those that cross their fingers for failure just to prove a point…

  • Tom Doolittle

    MAC–your economic argument is interesting. It’s probably something very few people including decision makers have considered while being distracted by (1) “social” concerns–the difficulty of assessing what most people in the ITP neighborhoods want without accurate polling (or a referendum). (2) Then political–allegiance between individual founding leaders on the “formation side” (Lakeside) and between them and legislators at the state level. (3) Then deeper, more conspiratorial–hidden agendas such as concern that the area needs an “upgrade”–the I-285 belt is simply getting poorer–its consumer base impacting the schools and business areas. Put another way–the difficulty of establishing what the “community of interest” is. All of these things lend to so-called “OTP/ITP” friction, altho I’d argue its really all about the educational “style”, demographic and political differences that probably start at Shallowford/Briarlake (1.5 miles inside the Perimeter).

    Likewise, the ECONOMIC argument over “neighborhoods” will be SECONDARY as long as there is no detailed tool with which to establish a decision–so it remains something the Legislative Committee can avoid. (Avoidance is the prime directive of rule making–all decisions will be made on that basis–probably leading to few decisions being made with a subcommittee.) The “Vinson” isn’t built to assess the impact of including one area or another beyond commercial districts. The data might be there somewhere, but it would take a heck of an additional effort to use it.

    The other thing about the Vinson–you can argue it any way you want, because its only based on “Day 1”. Someone would argue that a city can be run anyway it wants, so budgets are malleable, economic development can bring in more money over time, etc etc. Any decisions beyond very broad ones are voodoo.

  • MAC

    Tom–your keen view of the situation is very insightful. Your points (1) and (2) are particularly important. On one, assessing the “true” will of the people (not only ITP but also within the wider two-city conversation) is tricky and far more inconclusive at this point than the volume of voices might suggest. On two, another excellent point, and one that deserves a little more contemplation than I have seen publically expressed thus far–the question is begged, to what degree might politics, rather than the bottom line, nuts-and-bolds interests of the area inform the outcome? Anybody’s guess. Finally, the OTP/ITP friction to which you refer, and as you so keenly explain, is real. Conundrum 1: how will/can such ideological distance be reconciled between OTP/ITP if the LH leadership gets the map that they want…or between Tucker and the orphaned OTP LH supporters, for that matter, if the Tucker leadership gets the map that they want? Conundrum 2: to what degree does there exist the necessary confluence of vision between the would-be LH ITP citizens and the LH leadership. I’m not sure if the ideologies align. Admittedly, I don’t have a dog in that particular fight, but inquiring minds…

  • HB

    Exactly, ITP only. Briarcliff’s map was real, and encompassed the real community. Lakeside was nothing more than a political gerrymander for a few self selected power seekers. (Briarcliff’s “merge” with them was a euphemism for a surrender.) OTP in the Lavista HIlls city map is a financial burden in the immediate term, that would be borne on the backs of ITP homeowners primarily. And it will put a slow leak in our property values in the long term. If they really had our area’s interests in mind they’d have started by defining a vision that would be compelling enough to rally behind, and they’d have had neighborhoods clamoring to get in (exactly like what we’re seeing with Decatur and Brookhaven as we speak). Instead, failing that, areas are clamoring to distance themselves from what is obvious to most as a poorly thought out plan.

  • Tom Doolittle

    MAC–please find us a link to one of the articles that show the elitist comments about Tucker. I haven’t read The Reporter–I write on and follow Brookhaven Post. Not much “us/them” convo there–most posters are in Brookhaven.

    Spencer–regarding “rubes”–many ITP-South think people beyond Shallowford/Briarlake are IRRELEVANT to so-called “intown” life, for whatever reason. That’s not exactly being considered rubes, rather I’d say classically suburban, which today is simply LOSING purchasing power. Significant numbers of homes $300K minus–and with large lots–nonwalkability. Apartments are overwhelmingly working poor ($60 K minus family income) with tons of kids–easy access to Lakeside High–easier access to Tucker. Worse, apartments may actually exceed homes–and certainly family size does.
    The proof of this is Whole Foods and other “greening” trends not locating there (BTW–mostly about age at the time, but incomes are a growing warning).

    CAUTION (FEAR is the growth industry) about schools and home market is the overwhelming driving force where the original cityhood proponents walk out their doors every day. RELEVANCE to the growing in-town life is the aspiration. The leaders are well aware that the same feelings exist in the Evansdale contested areas. BTW–that doesn’t even touch the subject of underperforming commercial property (but I’d agree with you, that can see reinvestment–but it will still sell to those with less purchasing power).
    The Henderson Mill “Belt” is really all about being close to I-285 and NOT I-85. The influence is coming from “outside” (South DeKalb and Gwinnett)–less affiliation with North Druid/Emory than ever before. It’s not about today, its about the trend for future and the longing for yesterday.

    • MAC

      Tom–you requested a link to the lively but more unneighborly comments taking place. The site is Reporter Newspapers and the link is:

      There are some 30+ postings at the moment and the more misrepresenting of Tucker would be “North West’s” Dec. 4th post; an especially nasty/racist post of “No Thank You Tucker” from Dec. 6; as well as the misinformed and wayward Dec. 7 post by “Truth, Lies, and Wikipedia.”

      Lively conversation is healthy and important, but supporters of both sides should soundly and publically reject any contribution to the debate that seeks to denigrate, demean, and diminish the humanity of our fellow citizens through classist and elitist rhetoric. However this all shakes out, we’re still neighbors and will still have to come together for the good of the County.

      It doesn’t sit well to know that your neighbors are saying in the anonymity of a blog what the would dare not say smiling from behind their doorstep…

    • Spencer

      We all want sidewalks, Tom. Again, the Henderson Mill belt is not what I’m talking about. It’s neighborhoods like Northcrest, which is ALL about I-85 –and its wishes are being ignored as Tucker tries to drag it into a map it wants no part of in any form.
      As for Whole Foods– it declined to locate on North Druid Hills Road, too. And it won’t even look at Northlake, despite the high incomes so close by. Same for Trader Joe’s. Unfortunately, we are no longer Northlake’s demographic. It doesn’t enen try to market to us. It is seeking customers from far away.

      • Tom Doolittle

        Spencer–I have no disagreement with you on matters related to Northcrest. You are absolutely right that’s definitely about I-85. Altho I don’t see a Tucker connection, I also don’t see a connection with anything in LVH south of Shallowford Road. Can you provide some idea as to what demographic (age, income and family status) is buying homes there? If there are any kids in single-family homes, where do they attend elementary school?

        • MAC

          The disputed OTP issue is extraordinarily complex making opinions across the board more difficult to conclude than some let on. Spencer speaks about zip codes to support his position against Tucker, but what he fails to mention is the zip code of the Northcrest area is 30340: DORAVILLE. If the zip code and historical connection are so relevant, why don’t we hear much about Northcrest residents fighting to be annexed into Doraville? The reason is obvious. I know Northcrest pretty well. I have many personal and professional ties to Pleasantdale Elementary School. I have spoken with parents, teachers, and residents who see a more logical bridge to Tucker than to LH. Whether or not Northcrest has ever been considered a part of Tucker is an overblown and irrelevant argument. Follow the same logic and NONE of the neighborhoods in LaVista Hills’ expansion path should be included in their map because there is indisputably no history whatsoever linking LH (a few-weeks old invention) to the long-standing neighborhoods that would become LH. Moreover, if the will of the neighborhood is ALL that matters in whether to include or exclude, then LH’s should exclude neighborhoods like Laurel Ridge Shamrock, which has vehemently expressed that it doesn’t want to be included in the LH map. The argument just doesn’t hold because alas, other things matter like the LOGIC of the proposed boundaries. There’s a great deal of logic and common sense to Tucker’s proposed map. The boundaries are clean: 85 to the north, 285 to the west, the Gwinnett line to the east, the cities of Clarkston and Stn. Mtn. to the south. Clean. Study the LH map especially OTP. It creates a safety access nightmare with jagged lines in the middle of neighborhoods with little forethought or planning. It’s a mess. In short, I have no idea how it’s all going to pan out. At the end of the day, everyone will have their say when the proposed cities (however the lines are ultimately drawn) are put referendum. Like the city that you end up in? Vote yes. Hate the city that you end up in? Vote no. The TRUE will of the people will be made clear from that outcome…

          • Tom Doolittle

            I want to find out more about Northcrest/Pleasantdale. I’ve asked Spencer, now I’ll ask you MAC. Is there a civic association, website, Facebook page? Is there a Nextdoor Page? You mention the elementary school–what can I learn from a PTA rep? What organized voice does the area have related to cityhood? (Here’s my interest–it is EXTREMELY easy to follow what neighborhoods/communities are doing, saying south of Shallowford/Briarlake–THEY have civic organizations and on-line presence). These are communities that can arrange polling efforts–and have.

            The areas along Henderson Mill have ZERO representation, no polling, no organization beyond school zones–which are not set up as a civic voice. THAT is why the legislature can’t put any faith in what they are being told about that area. It also speaks to the lack of MANDATE for folks to REPRESENT/ADVOCATE that area to outside decision-makers.

            So–the question is, does Northcrest/Pleasantdale want to be included as a real community–like North Briarcliff, like North Druid Hills Resident Association, like Sagamore, like Laurel Hills? Or does it want to try to fake everyone out like the amorphous Henderson Mill Arc/Belt/Corridor–and just hope someone will accept what is being claimed?

            Give me some contact info–give me some presence–give me some representation. I’ll make sure you get good info back.

          • MAC

            Tom–As always, thanks for your keen insight and substantive contributions to the discussion. Regarding your request, on the OTP side, personally, I can’t offer you much in highly organized civic and social media advocacy for one position (Tucker) or the other (LH), certainly not like you describe south of Shallowford/Briarlake. This very disparate reality emerging in describing LH folks ITP vs LH prospects OTP has me wondering how much both groups really know and communicate with one another at the community (not leadership) level. How much are LH OTP sentiments fueled by a notion of prestige rather than by the nuts-and-bolts practicalities required in building a city with a mix of perspectives, competing interests, political tendencies, and diverse cultural interests (big “C” and small “c” cultural)?That’s what you get in a city of ANY size, how much more with 50,000 or 70,000 inhabitants? The OTP voices are loud, strong, and filled with conviction, but they are also highly anecdotal. The relatively silent 20,000+ perspectives in the disputed area that we’re not hearing from could in fact be “voicing” an opinion like “I really don’t care about all of this Cityhood stuff–I’ve got bigger fish to fry like feeding and caring for my family”…or “I think we need to salvage the County.” The thing about anecdotes is that we just can’t know. The silence of 20,000+ people is a pretty powerful statement that very well might be waiting to speak its mind loudly at referendum…

          • Tom B. Doolittle

            There’s probably enough cross-connect between individuals in the northern part of the Druid Hills High area and near I-285 in the Lakeside High area. Probably a fair amount of cross-business activity. However, the cultures and form of leadership are far different–and that contributes mightily to the political differences.

            So you ask–how well do cities with such dynamics succeed–or another way, how successful are they? I say the question is only apt for cities that have been around awhile. They EVOLVED into different communities over time–and MANAGE under those circumstances. New cities starting off like that is a huge question.

            One other throw-away notion: People want to talk about “diversity” in these new cities. That’s the wrong word for a city that is BIFURCATED or TRI-FURCATED cleanly from the outset. Example is traditional Brookhaven simply “bolting on” Buford Highway. In our area, we have the trading in and out of whole neighborhoods in map-making–or worse, assigning tens of thousands of people to a map simply in a quest to satisfy an arbitrary financial standard measured by a so-called think tank.

            To me, this isn’t simply an academic challenge that you can debate to justify having a referendum (or even compare one cityhood proposal to another). The referendum has to PASS (and legislators are betting their reputations that it will)–and THEN the whole magilla–the city has to succeed under what can amount to a questionable mandate (see Brookhaven). Debate that one all you want, but the proof will be in every decision that has to be made by the citizenry, such as referendums for TADs and tax increases.

          • MAC

            Precisely, Tom. Few could argue that MOST cities that we inhabit are already established and have been long before we were born in or moved into them. So to your point, dynamics and differences have evolved as they have needed to in established cities, and indeed they will in new cities as well. Evolution is organic and a given. In the case of the Tucker-LaVista Hills situation, evolution cannot begin its organic course until the cityhood clock begins, and that clock begins when the citizenry has its say on the issue (referendum as you discuss), which can’t happen until the boundaries are settled. Given the disparate political, social and cultural (small “c”) dynamics that you mention in the heart of LH, “evolution” will have to work that much harder with a concept that proposes to cross the wide midsection of DeKalb County virtually stretching from Fulton to Gwinnett. Size is one factor, but attempting to gel an ITP space and reality across 285 with an OTP space and reality, in the case of a new city that could choose to structure itself in a more reasonable fashion at its inception, is a BIG factor…and the elephant in the room. LaVista Hills should be an ITP city. Period.

          • Tom B. Doolittle

            MAC–the only thing I would point out about a so-called “ITP City” depends on how an ITP city is defined. I’d say the former Lakeside City boundaries could appropriately include some areas “beyond” the Perimeter (terminology avoids the OTP moniker)–and not extend as far south as North Druid Hills Road. The area from Shallowford/Briarlake/Frazier down to Sagamore/Leafmore can legitimately be included with Lakeside areas near (and slightly outside) I-285.
            legitimately be considered part of a city that is trending “urban”, the North Druid to Druid area. Call that cross-hatch “Greater Oak Grove”. In other words the contested areas between Briarcliff City and Lakeside should have been the “Oak Grove” section, not the I-285 Northlake section.

            The distinction that’s useful in boundary making regards “communities of interest”, which are cultural and aspirational (you’ve made that point)–those can’t be neatly defined between ITP/OTP. I live “inside” (below) I-285, but I’m not culturally linked with North Druid. I’m culturally linked with Midvale/Evans and Embry, which are definitely OTP. I’m in Henderson–City of Lakeside and so are they–or just call the whole area where I live “Northlake”. Looked another way–we regard ourselves as organized by elementary school zones, not neighborhoods, as North Druid folks prefer.

            It’s a cultural difference between a suburban Republican area that will remain traditional suburban (and transition to lower income immigrant families–and rental) and one that is “activist” Democrat, continue to relate to Druid/Emory/CDC, trend toward higher density, maintaining its property values by capturing what mainstream (what has amounted to “affluent” in 20th Century) homebuyers that remain in the market–GenY, both family and single-roommate.

            BTW–the only way cities would be segmented by “interests” (thus the term “community of interest”) is to be much smaller than currently discussed (40,000 max in this Corridor)–unless they didn’t use US 78 as a boundary.

            THEN when you consider 40,000 max, there is room for three “cities”, allowing for a tighter definition of Tucker.

            My primary point is there’s a ton of area that is INDEED “INSIDE” the Perimeter that affiliates more strongly with the Henderson Mill/Montreal/Embry Hills/Northcrest than with North Druid. Put another way, its “inside”, but not ITP.

            or you can say OTP/ITP is an appropriate “name”–as long as it isn’t differentiated by a highway (counterintuitively).

          • MAC

            Tom–Our contribution to this blog seems to have converted to a one-on-one discussion, which I appreciate because convesations should be happening among what I will call “metro neighbors,” perhaps in one camp or the other, but still neighbors in the affected area whose destinies are indeed linked.

            I would like to say at the outset that my use of the “ITP/OTP” monikers has always been with a broad application. I understand very well that cross points (like I-285, for example) are not “barriers” as they’ve frequently been defined in this debate and they don’t contain neatly the communities of interest. Tucker will be essentially an “OTP” city, yet there exists the nuance that Tucker (currently) bleeds across 285 into Northlake Festival and along the Montreal Rd. corridor. How do we deal with that reality?

            Personally (speaking only as a resident), I’d much prefer the 40,000 pop smaller community of interest model. Problem is just as the arms race made two countries rush to accumulate more, bigger, and better bombs because each feared the overgrowth of the other, here, if one group strives for a bigger piece of the pie, the other will do the same. Self perpetuating.

            Question: is it too late at this point to be discussing the community of interest model? I mean, that’s where we all started, three small cities being proposed: a Briarcliff, a Lakeside, and a Tucker. Distinct communities of interest (as you so precisely defined) in Briarcliff and Lakeside allowed themselves to be joined together to form the 73,000-resident behemoth LaVista Hills now being proposed stretching essentially from Fulton County to Gwinnett across the midsection of DeKalb.

            In leaving the community of interest model by the wayside, LH defined itself as big and as expansive as it wanted to be. Why wouldn’t Tucker (1) be a bit nervous surrounded on half of its boundaries by such a colossus, and (2) push back and attempt to expand its own boundaries more broadly to offset that colossus? Self perpetuating and a natural response. At that point is all fair game, right? So the two groups think. If community of interest is out of the window with the new order of things, then Tucker is no less entitled to propose in its boundaries Northcrest and Evansdale (a geographically logical proposal for Tucker) than LH proposed CHOA/Executive Park or a corner of Druid Hills in its proposal.

            In abandoning the community of interest model for their respective cities, the groups give up (LH especially) not only a more precisely defined reference point for the “heart” of their community (I’m using “heart” geographically as well as figuratively), but more important, they give up a sense of moral entitlement to that community that the other sides would naturally respect. That’s where we are now. The conversation is now an argument about moral entitlement to communities that are being absorbed by concepts (like LaVista a Hills, a few-weeks-old concept).

            I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the subcommittee draws the line at I-285, an un-nuanced solution to say the least, given the permeability of interests on either side of 285 that you and I have both discussed. But in the absence of the groups themselves going back to the drawing board and reevaluating community vs concept, what more could we expect from legislators, three of whom aren’t even from the area? Most any “victory” that comes out of this mess will be pyrrhic to say the least…

          • Tom B. Doolittle

            I doubt the subcommittee is going to do anything at ALL. One member has already announced that the subcommittee shouldn’t exist in the first place (“breaking the rules” and said all possibility for compromise mapping should have ended with the proponents). He was also painfully persistent in getting the chair to affirm that any map-making has to be unanimous among subcommittee members. (There are two DeKalb Democrat members–see ya). He also spent a great deal of time pointing out alternate possibilities (such as one city) and asking whether the groups would agree on any of them. Their reps demurred.

            So the first meeting accomplished one thing–the subcommittee will not take responsibility for mapping because they are dealing with recalcitrant (possibly to be concluded as illegitimate) proponent groups. The committee does remain welcoming of any agreement the groups make between themselves.
            (BTW–all of this occurs even before the subcommittee has added annexations to the mix).

            My interest in examining communities of interest is what you have alluded to–to prepare for the need for future efforts. Big Note: most people seem to ignore the fact that legislature do NOT push forward legislation for referendums without good evidence they will pass. Referendums aren’t pass/fail finger in the air surveys. So…members have a great interest in assuring there are legitimate “communities of interest”. The committee (not subcommittee) almost lost credibility when it was bamboozled into thinking the Brookhaven map described a community of interest. Communities of interest don’t pass government organizational models that change their lives forever by 54-46 votes and only 25% voting. They pass with over 85% votes. Only community organizers with little to NO MANDATE sneak referendums across the finish line. That’s when the HGAC got its first taste of what it’s like to run a referendum without good evidence.

            For various reasons, polls were done and are being re-done in several neighborhoods along the Druid Hills and North Decatur border of LaVista Hills. The subcommittee gets educated when they do that. They are getting the evidence they need. Unfortunately, in the area they think needs the most attention, the contested area of “claims and counter claims” near Tucker–THERE IS NO EFFORT TO POLL. For that reason alone, the committee should take a pass. Marching orders for next year–(1) Poll and (2) Redo (I prefer “restructure”) economic studies.

  • Tom Doolittle

    Spencer–Regarding the support for what once was Lakeside City Alliance and now LaVista Hills in the contested Evans/Livsey/Midvale area (once again, Henderson Mill/I-285 “belt”). I’d invite you to compare and contrast ages 65 and above voters with Under 50s regarding voting preferences–and whether over 70s are classically Tucker affiliates.

    BTW–I don’t consider cityhood to be a big deal one way or the other from the standpoint of the ability to impact the future, my pocketbook or whatever metrics most people are reacting to. (“Boundary branding” in terms of lobbying and advocacy however–and making way for city schools will have impact).

    A city that only commands at most 10% of your taxation won’t impact the power of the market–even the bond market. However, I AM concerned about over promising voters and the impact of “buyers remorse” (as in Brookhaven). That WILL BE a terrible distraction. That is the basis of my advocacy.

    • Spencer

      Tom, I really don’t believe there’s as much ” buyer’s remorse” in Brookhaven as the small coterie of city opponents online who refuse to let go (posters on the Brookhaven Post) would have you believe. When I talk to the people on the street, most speak favorably of the impact of Cityhood overall. I have several co- workers who are quite satisfied. I haven’t heard from any who are unhappy ( admittedly they don’t care one way or the other about the Pink Pony. Strippers are not their concern in any sense.)
      As for Evans/Midvale/Livsey, Tucker is strying to stretch far beyond that– into areas that have never been a part of Tucker and don’t want to be a part of Tucker. I’m talking about areas closer to I-85. Those areas are contested, too. They don’t share so much as a zip code with Tucker. The Evans and Midvale areas have their own unique love/hate relationship with Tucker and have for 30+ years. That’s a totally separate issue. My friends who lived in that area got fed up and moved to Sandy Springs.

      • Tom Doolittle

        That’s good local info Spencer. Can you be specific as to what your friends didn’t like, precisely where they used to live and how many moved to Sandy Springs? What have they told you improved for them after they moved?

  • Save Tucker!

    For Ms. Elkon, please do not make assumptions that what they can do in Brookhaven with their tax dollars will be anything close to what can be done in this area. We are nowhere close to Brookhaven and most people are very satisfied with police here. Crime is down for the county. Cities use those extra police (if they can afford any extra) to write more traffic tickets and most of their real crime fighting has to be contracted back to the county so you get to pay more for what you have always had all along.

  • HB

    Real estate is driven by location and proximities, and that’s what this is about. This isn’t about looking down on areas or people, and it certainly is not personal. Decatur homes are valued double over areas less than half a mile away, based on these factors. Those of us ITP want to keep ITP because we have different goals for our future, and are more interested, as Doolittle says, in our future relevance and connectedness to intown life than those who prefer the larger lots, car culture and suburban lifestyle of Tucker and Pleasantdale. (many of whom scorn the intown life, in turn.) This has nothing to do with housing styles either. 50s-70s ranch homes are all over Atlanta. No one area is SUPERIOR. They are simply DIFFERENT, and belong in different cities in order to keep services streamlined, which will keep everyones taxes in check. That’s all.

    • notapunk

      It’s funny, but it wasn’t too long ago that Decatur was seen as too far out in the boonies. People used to laugh at us when we saw the potential in Decatur. Decatur’s only been “hot” for a relatively short time.

  • HB

    The thing that gets my goat is this mind numbing talking point that Tucker folks keep trying to whitewash, that there’s no community intown. Hogwash. Anyone who says that either is new around here, a shut in, or has some political motivation to slander. I lived in Tucker and loved it, want it to be a city, don’t want anything OTP, as that is logical border for us all. But stop with the business about no “there there” as you put it. Oak Grove and North Decatur have civil war history too, and frankly, more vibrant commerce areas. All community in Atlanta area is driven by subdivisions, and schools in the final analysis. Goes for Tucker as well as intown. Anyone who still thinks there’s no spirit of Oak Grove should come to Lavista and Oak Grove on a spring weekend. Youll see more activity in that “downtown” area than in tucker on the same given day. Kids doing car washes or hanging at the ice cream shop, parents eating at the cafes or doing yoga or cleaning up the park. It’s why I chose this place to buy. Let’s put aside that red herring argument once and for all please.

    • MAC

      HB–It sounds from your comments that you see no problem with a two-city solution. Your view and mine are in synch on that point. We have some common ground. In my circles, I tell you that I don’t hear ANY Tucker folks arguing that no community exists intown or in Oak Grove. What would be the point? Likewise, what’s the point of competing over which groups host more carwashes and barbeques? A person who lives neither in Tucker nor in Oak Grove wouldn’t be excluded from a particular event. That’s because our metropolitan reality is fluid. Community is not about buildings and historical markers anyway. It’s about a FELT sense of common connection to the larger whole. You yourself credit that Tucker has that. I credit that Oak Grove has that (my workout gym is in Oak Grove, and it’s a fine little area that I frequent daily–and no one rejected my membership there). The notion of “community” is as abstract as the line that separates ITP from OTP. The line is FLUID. Walk the 285 bridge on LaVista Rd., and within 2 minutes you’ve gone from OTP to ITP and vice versa. Fluid. I read a curious comment that Tucker should “stay Tucker and stop trying to be bigger than it is.” What an odd thing to say. How big should Tucker be entitled to be? Or LH? Or any proposed city for that matter? That’s a decision that each proposed city (and its citizens) has to make for itself. If the citizens of proposed Tucker (or LH) aren’t on board with the model, they will reject that model soundly at the referendum. Besides, some may think that a LH with 70,000 people (the projected population based on LH’s proposed map) is too big for the type of community that its supporters (like HB) seem to want and o envision (which is why many ITPers support disputed OTP going to Tucker). I think each group can build excellent new cities in line with their community vision at about 50,000 each with equitable distribution of commercial property. Tucker’s map offers a far more equitable division of the population, which would see both cities with comparable populations framed by logical boundaries. I agree wholeheartedly with HB…outside of this bottom line, most everything else–who has more community spirit, which zip code is where, which cookouts and barbeques are the best, which carwashes are the cleanest, whether a particular neighborhood ever considered itself “Tucker” or “LH” or not–is indeed a red herring. So many fishy, smelly red herrings reeking, confusing, and muddying the path for us all to achieve the prize (cityhood) that is within the reach of us all…

      • HB

        Again, as I’ve said in other comments, no area is superior. They are just different. The only reason I even brought up the community spirit in Oak Grove was not to trump, because it’s not a competition, it was to squash the (many) arguments that I’ve seen online and heard at meetings that (quoting here) “LH doesn’t even exist”. “There’s no there there” or remarks to the tune of that because LH doesn’t have a street named Main that it’s not a community like Tucker is.I’ve lived in both places and both have their strengths. To support one doesn’t mean you have to bash the other, we’re both awesome. That old high school competition mentality cheapens the discussion. Two small cities, keep ITP wholly ITP, keep Tucker wholly OTP, and let Pleasantdale poll themselves later on to choose between Doraville or Tucker. That’s the only way that this is going to work.

  • Tom B. Doolittle

    Bit of real news not reported to date. Mary Kay Woodworth announced they made a change in the proposed LaVista Hills charter intended to get legislation thru without being held up by indecision from border area neighborhoods. Many of those neighborhoods are tied up in knots by trying to choose between holding out for one of the annexations, joining the cityhood movement or staying unincorporated. So LaVista’s charter will accept any neighborhood that expresses a desire to be added at a later date. For any area that hasn’t been included in an annexation plan, the clause frees up the subcommittee to not have to consider that neighborhood for the maps–this year. The commitment from LaVista’s charter seems academic, but its not. What it means is that all–too-familiar problem of matching neighborhoods with adding commensurate commercial area isn’t in play. LaVista guarantees annexation when the neighborhood asks. Its a game changer if its real–and legislators accept it.

    Now here’s my question–was the clause designed for the disputed territories with Tucker also? If it was, once again it makes legislative adjudication of the battle unnecessary while determining maps. They can say some area from Northlake to Northcrest are off limits to both cities–to be voted on later by those precincts. (My guess is–and I’ll be asking–the clause was only intended for the south border areas.)

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