Opposition to cityhood, annexation grows

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt January 20, 2015
DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

You’ve heard the pitch of new cities and existing cities that want to annex property in unincorporated DeKalb County.

Now for the democratic response.

Several groups are working to convince legislators that the best decision they can make in the 2015 session is no decision at all. There are also several petitions circulating with a similar message.

Currently there are proposals to create new cities of Tucker, LaVista Hills, Stonecrest and a City of South DeKalb in various stages of development. Tucker and LaVista Hills seem the most likely to move forward this year, though no bills have been introduced on their behalf yet. There’ve also been no bills introduced pushing the annexation plans of Avondale Estates and Decatur. One group, Together in Atlanta, wants to annex the Druid Hills Neighborhood into Atlanta, a move that could disrupt the other schools that send students to Druid Hills High.

One of the more organized groups that is fighting these proposals is DeKalb Strong, led by President Marjorie Snook. She said the group isn’t against new cities, but against the current process. The group recently received a batch of yard signs and half the first order is gone. One of the members holds a master’s in public policy and is researching the tax implications of the various plans. They plan to be at every meeting they can on the topic, Strong said.

“We are not anti all cities forever in DeKalb, but we think that this current process is woefully insufficient considering the impact of these decisions,” Snook said.

A new poll by the Atlanta Journal Constitution has given the groups some cause for optimism. The poll said that opposition to new cities in Atlanta is running at 69 percent. Decaturish contacted the reporter involved who said the poll is statewide and not focused on DeKalb voters, so this poll may not represent the consensus view.

Still, between that and various neighborhood surveys showing support for remaining unincorporated, Snook feels that there’s a stronger case for waiting a little longer than for pushing ahead this session.

“There’s not real mandate for any of this,” Snook said. “I’ve never seen any evidence of a mandate, I find it curious there are so many people who say that this is inevitable. Why is it inevitable if nobody wants it?”

The petitions have different goals and hundreds of signatures to support them.

One petition, titled, “Say ‘NO’ to the City of Decatur annexing DeKalb County Commercial properties” makes the argument that Decatur’s plan robs Medlock Park of important tax-producing parcels. It has 621 signatures as of Jan. 20.

DeKalb Strong’s petition, titled “Establish a moratorium on new cities and annexations in DeKalb” is self-explanatory.

“The cityhood process, as it has currently unfolded, is bad policy with huge consequences for schools, quality of life, and taxes in all of DeKalb County,” the petition says. It has 447 signatures as of Jan. 20.

Other groups include “Keep it Together DeKalb: United 4 Kids,” which has 278 likes on Facebook and a profile picture of from the Simpsons of a woman imploring, “Won’t somebody please think of the children!!!” Don’t forget “The Organized Opposition,” which has 215 likes. The About section says, “We want the insanity in DeKalb to stop!”

Decaturish has reached out to the legislative delegation to find out if any bills are being drafted. Snook said she thinks it’s “interesting” there are no bills up for consideration. Snook hopes the legislators will realize there’s a better way to handle DeKalb’s business.

“We’re letting people know,” Snook said. “People thought this is inevitable, so we might as well pick the best city. It’s not a done deal and we can insist on a better process.”

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • notapunk

    I’d like someone to ask DeKalb Strong leader Ron McCauley for his reasoning behind his switch from strong supporter of forming a new city, as he wrote to his neighborhood organization ( http://victoriaestates.info/2013/10/04/covereport-october-4-2013/?preview=true#Cityhood_City_of_Briarcliff ), to calling for a moratorium. What caused him to rethink his position?

    • Save Tucker!

      The article states “DeKalb Strong, led by President Marjorie Snook.”

      • notapunk

        And the DeKalb Strong web site ( http://dekalbstrong.com/who-we-are/ ) lists Ron McCauley first among its board members. No other titles are listed. What’s your point?

        • Marjorie Snook

          Names are listed alphabetically on our Web site. I’m not a big title person.

          • notapunk

            Does it really matter? Aren’t all of you “leaders” of DeKalb Strong?
            I’d still like to know what factors made a former board member of the City of Briarcliff Initiative (and strong advocate of cityhood) do a 180 on the subject.

  • Tracy White

    “Several groups are working to convince legislators that the best
    decision they can make in the 2015 session is no decision at all.”

    Sounds like a real solution – do nothing, yet again, and expect it to fix itself.

    Carry on with that one!

    • Save Tucker!

      Solution to what, exactly, Tracy? Has anyone clearly identified a problem to which you think the common sense solution is either “start a new city from thin air” or “annex into an existing city” and, if so, please explain the rationale behind your answer.

  • Tom B. Doolittle

    A moratorium is far different than doing nothing. It is legislation-and that has legal consequences–and can be created to comes with other proactive conditions, such as a complete review and changes to cityhood law (such as it is). Then again, a simple delay could also be used to that effect, but the effort could linger or waiver.

    My guess is that a moratorium is as big a leap as making cityhood/annexation decisions in this environment. They’ll make a no-legislation delay.

    At that point, some creativity may come into play, such as LaVista Hills boundaries being split up into subareas to go into a 10-year annexation plan–a little for Decatur, a little for Atlanta, a little for Brookhaven and Chamblee. A City of Tucker might still be done–and a little of LaVista could go there. Then again, some of Tucker’s map could go to Stone Mountain and Chamblee. Talk about creative? Some of Tucker into Gwinnett.

    • notapunk

      A split that creative would go over like a lead balloon in some areas. I can’t imagine a successful vote on this side of I-85 to annex into Chamblee. Decatur doesn’t want any residential. A majority of voters in both DeKalb and Gwinnett Counties (the entire counties, not just the annexation area) would have to agree to a Tucker-into-Gwinnett move.

      • Save Tucker!

        Don’t recall voting on the city of Atlanta spanning two counties, do you? How exactly did that happen and why wouldn’t the annexation of Druid Hills require a county separation as well?

        • notapunk

          What are you talking about, Save Tucker? This isn’t about a city spreading across two counties. It’s about taking land from one county and giving it to another. The Georgia Constitution is specific about what has to happen. To give any part of Tucker-in-DeKalb to Gwinnett County requires a majority vote by the citizens of DeKalb AND Gwinnett.

  • DHer

    The right to self-determination seems pretty fundamental. Let the people vote.

  • FinHead

    Dekalb middle and high schools are not rated well and now we’ll have the higher crime from Wal-mart and the other crap they’re shoving into Suburban Plaza. Our neighborhood is overwhelming for annexation for Decatur schools and services. We’re in the annexation plan so we’re all going it works out!

    • notapunk

      I gotta tell you though, my son graduated from a DeKalb high school not many years ago and he was awarded honors in medical school a year early and is weighing some of the top programs in the country for his residency (Stanford, Columbia, Harvard, John’s Hopkins, Duke, etc.) , so be careful what you knock.

      • Save Tucker!

        DeKalb of today is not the same as DeKalb of even five years ago. Yes, there are success stories but they don’t outweigh the number of children who have been lost to the greed and infighting in the system today.

        • notapunk

          You know what? It’s up to the parent(s) of each child to make sure he or she succeeds in a public school. But what would you know about that, Save Tucker? You send your kid to private school. Try fighting the good fight, then we’ll talk.

  • Anna

    Is city hood opposition really growing? Looks like same players/new group names to me. Atlanta annexation opposition looks to be what’s exploding.

  • exilist

    Here’s a question. Is it LaVista or Lavista? According to the street signs it’s Lavista.

  • jo

    I support a moritorium and I support an easy deannexation path for citizens as a way of holding cities accountable too. The cities get accused of the same ills as the county. Cities are being sold as a way of seceding from DeKalb’s politicians when that’s not true.

  • CH

    Medlock doesn’t like that Decatur wants to take “its” commercial and not the surrounding residential. As a CoD resident, I also think it’s wrong. However, I must point out the hypocrisy:

    1) Medlock has *begged* the city to annex it, while at the same time calling Decatur “unethical” and all sorts of other unsavory adjectives. If Decatur is truly as horrible as they suggest, Medlock residents should be opposed to annexation into such a city.

    2) Many Medlock residents say that they’re concerned about *all* of DeKalb County as well as about *all* DeKalb schools, but in reality, they’re concerned only with Medlock. Decatur is also trying to cherry-pick other commercial areas without taking the surrounding residential areas, but that wouldn’t keep Medlock from joining Decatur if asked, even though it would negatively impact unincorporated DeKalb and its schools, their funding, etc.

    Please. Get off the moral high horse!

    • Save Tucker!

      Just goes to show you how bad this entire situation is for everyone. Since when does splintering off into small, defeatable little factions solve big problems, anyway? It’s like we’re preparing for the next Civil War or something. Remember, take the oxygen mask for yourself first before assisting those around you. Besides, if everyone were to “get off the moral high horse,” as you put it, what exactly would we have left? Immoral pigs rolling in the mud? No thanks!

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