LaVista Hills co-chair says feasibility study recommended, not required

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt January 13, 2015
Proposed map of LaVista Hills. Source: LaVista Hills Yes

Proposed map of LaVista Hills. Source: LaVista Hills Yes

The General Assembly made a few exceptions to its rules for creating new cities so legislation could move forward in this year’s session.

Typically new cities are a two-year process, but the two year rule has been waived this year for the proposed cities of Tucker and LaVista Hills. Another was waiving the need for a new feasibility study for the revised proposals for the cities of LaVista Hills and Tucker. Feasibility studies typically are required to ensure that cities will have enough tax revenue for the services they plan to provide.

In December, a special subcommittee settled a key boundary dispute between supporters of Tucker and LaVista Hills, splitting up property around Northlake Mall, a source of commercial tax revenue. At the time, it was thought that each city would need a new feasibility study. Tucker’s proposal has some slight variations. LaVista Hills combines the two previous proposals for Briarcliff and Lakeside. Since both already had feasibility studies, conducting another for LaVista Hills would’ve meant going back to donors for an additional $20,000 or so for a new one. Previous studies for Lakeside were conducted by the Carl Vinson Institute of government at the University of Georgia.

The new study won’t have to be completed for a bill to move forward, however.

LaVista Hills representatives clarified that point during a presentation at Young Israel on Sunday, Jan. 11. Allen Venet, co-chair of LaVista Hills Yes, said that a feasibility study is recommended, but not required. 

“A number of members of the legislature have told us to get one done anyway,” Venet said. “And it will be important for us to get one done anyway, so that’s our plan.”

Daniel Chapman, another member of LaVista Hills Yes, presented an optimistic picture of the proposed city’s finances, based on his estimates in the Lakeside feasibility study

Chapman said there would be no tax increase for residents of the proposed city.

“We believe that we are as strong if not stronger that the time the Carl Vinson study was conducted for Lakeside,” Chapman said.

According to LaVista Hills figures presented at the meeting on Sunday, projected revenue would be $35.9 million and expenditures would be $29.1 million, meaning the city could operate with a $6.8 million surplus. LaVista Hills also claims $46 million in commercial property has been added since the Carl Vinson Lakeside study. Properties gained include properties along Briar Vista, North Druid Hills Road and North DeKalb Mall, according to the presentation given on Sunday.

Like the newer cities of Brookhaven and Dunwoody, LaVista Hills would outsource some city services, like public works, Venet said. The Lakeside study estimated that city could pay for 83 police officers to patrol the streets.

There are still issues to work through with the LaVista Hills proposal. While the boundary with Tucker has been resolved, there is overlap between the LaVista Hills map and an annexation proposal from Together in Atlanta. TIA wants to bring areas around Briar Vista and Fernbank Elementary schools into the city of Atlanta.

Mary Kay Woodworth, co-chair of LaVista Hills Yes, said discussions with TIA have focused more on residential and not commercial property.

“They have said to us, ‘We don’t care about the commercial. Why don’t you go ahead and carve out all of the commercial property, including Toco Hill, Briarcliff area? You take that and we just want the people,'” Woodworth said. “We don’t think that’s right. We don’t think it’s proper and fair to the residents of these communities.”

Read more: This is the presentation from the Jan. 11 meeting at Young Israel. 


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  • jo

    If the legislature waives the requirements for these two then it will be forced to waive the requirements for others.

  • Teacher Reader

    Sadly, nothing about this push for cityhood has been transparent and open. Lavista Hills would not say who was on their board, or who or what committees that they have or have had. They have not announced the meetings that these committees have had, so that the public could attend, watch, and participate. Community surveys have been ignored and communities wanting out of the Lavista Hills boundary are ignored. Lavista Hills taking on school district issues, something that they will not be dealing with and should not be speaking on. Nothing about Lavista Hills has been transparent. Feel like I’m being sold a fake Piccaso. Time out! Let’s think.

  • Mark Snyder

    Dan, citing the LaVista Hills reps as the sole source on whether or not a Feasibility Study is required is like asking a drunk driver of they’ve been drinking. Of course the answer will be no. Please cite the actual Legislators. Frankly if LaVista Hills cannot raise the funds for an updated study then a clear community mandate in support of this city is questionable. People put their money where their passion is. This City will forever alter DeKalb and impact property tax payers forever as well. Requiring real numbers is not too much to ask. A Feasibility Study had never been done for this map. Forgive me if I’d prefer to have professionals providing the data instead of my volunteer neighbors.

  • notapunk

    Didn’t Rep. Brockway say during the boundary hearings that they would move forward with the bills without new feasibility studies, but that he wanted as much updated financial info as the two cityhood groups could gather before the final vote?

    • Mark Snyder

      He said that with regard to the decision being made by the panel on boundaries (before the final announcement was made of the boundaries). At the hearing where the boundaries were revealed, the panel members indicated updated Feasibility Studies should be done. But truly as a property taxpayer I don’t understand why a cityhood movement would say they’ll only do a Study if required to – why consider moving forward without solid data on city viability. How can I or any other impacted citizen make an informed decision on supporting a City that has no vetted information on how my wallet will be impacted. During the Legislative Hearings, Allen Venet made it clear the LaVista Hills proposal was tenuous at best and having Northlake Mall was the only hope of being viable. Now the narrative has changed to promoting the vitality of the new city. All of this is based on the reports of citizen volunteers and not actual professional analysis. I’m not opposed to cityhood – I just want valid assurance that the funds are there to pay for the promised services.

      • notapunk

        No, it was in regard to a bill, not the boundary decision. That decision did not set all of the boundaries — only the boundary between Tucker and LaVista Hills. He noted that it would be difficult for the two city groups to get new feasiblity studies done before the legislature acts… but he wants as much financial info as they can provide. It appears LaVista Hills has added commercial and is on much sounder footing since the hearings. TiA apparently has ceded Toco Hill and North DeKalb Mall is now in the LaVista Hills map. Venet has said more recently that they will do an updated feasibility study after the legislature acts — and before a referendum. I would like something from an outside entity too, before a vote. And if a vote is not until November, there should be plenty of time for them to get an updated study.

        • RAJ

          DeKalb County has a computer program to provide this info and they need this stuff to….you guys don’t get your panties in a wad over this, with my new responsibilities and a little help from my friends I think I can handle most of the important relevant aspects of this issue.

        • Mark Snyder

          As reported in the Brookhaven Post, here is what Rep. Brockway actually said, “Stressing that because there is no feasibility study that coincides with the proposed map, Brockway urged the two groups to get to work on raising the funds for a study that does. “Financial viability is a big issue,” he said.”
          In response, Lavista Hills’ Mary Kay Woodworth posted this on the Brookhaven Post, “While a new study is not required by House Governmental Affairs subcommittee (per Rep. Brockway), LaVista Hills WILL have a new study well before this issue goes to referendum. LaVista Hills YES used methodology mirroring UGA Carl Vinson Institute (from Lakeside and City of Briarcliff 2013 reports) to determine if property in new boundaries is economically viable before committing to raising funds to update study.” So instead of ‘getting busy raising funds’ to fulfill the charge given by the Legislature, LaVista Hills chose to interpret the clear mandate differently and apparently is hoping they can continue to convince us of the need for this city (schools and DeKalb corruption) and then provide the financial picture just before the referendum. If this is indicitive of the leadership we can expect under LaVista Hills, it should be alarming to all property taxpayers.
          Please provide a source for your statement that TIA has “conceded Toco Hills.” I continue to hear that the City of Atlanta has
          plans to annex up to the new Brookhaven borders.

          • notapunk

            Check the latest LaVista Hills map. Nowhere near the new Brookhaven border.

  • Mark Snyder

    LaVista Hills is already talking about tax hikes. Again, just not sure why they are waiting to be required to provide a Feasibility Study. They live in the area too so seems they would want real data on tax impacts.

  • Yes2LaVistaHills

    While a new study is not required by House Governmental Affairs subcommittee (per Rep. Brockway), LaVista Hills WILL have a new study well before this issue goes to referendum. LaVista Hills YES used methodology mirroring UGA Carl Vinson Institute (from Lakeside and City of Briarcliff 2013 reports) to determine if property in new boundaries is economically viable before committing to raising funds to update study.

    • Mark Snyder

      Please provide a reference for your statement “per Rep. Brockway.” I’m sure you have this in writing so that citation should be easily validated. And just to clarify, citizen volunteers (not professionals) crunched the numbers from previous studies before raising funds to do an actual study…why not just raise the funds and do this right? If there is passion for this City, citizens – particularly in our financial demographic – would have little problem raising $15,000. All of the meetings and advocacy that is taking place now to gain support for the referendum is based on the analysis of well-meaning volunteers. Wouldn’t the time being invested on advocating for a new city be better spent finding out if the financial viability is there? How can citizens come to an informed conclusion about support for a City that has no substance to back up its hopes and dreams?

  • travelingfool

    I wonder has there been any polling of the affected areas to see how the vote would go. Surely, at this time someone, whether they’ve published or not, would have completed some type of polling to see which way the wind is blowing. Same for Annexation by Matt Lewis and the Druid Hills Charter cluster mafia.

  • Bubba

    Dan I had never heard of Decaturish until I attended the meeting at DHHS the other night. I must say I’m very glad to find it! Thanks very much for your incisive and coherent reporting on these issues — something I haven’t seen anywhere else.

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