Proposed legislation would give cities a right to vote on annexation

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt February 17, 2015

This story has been updated. 

One of the underlying tensions of the debate over whether to increase the size of DeKalb County cities through annexation involves who gets to vote on the proposals.

Under current state law, only people who live in the area to be annexed would get to vote on whether to join an existing city. The residents of the existing city don’t get to vote.

But a new bill could change that if it survives the current legislative session. House Bill 360 would require voting by both citizens of the area to be annexed and citizens of the existing city.

The text of the bill says, “In addition, those persons registered to vote for members of the General Assembly residing, on the date of the adoption of the resolution, in the corporate limits of the municipality shall vote in the referendum. If both a majority of those voting in the proposed area to be annexed and a majority of those voting in the corporate limits of the municipality vote in favor of annexation, the area shall become a part of the corporate limits of the municipality, but not otherwise.”

HB 360 is sponsored by Rep. Beth Beskin, R-Atlanta. Beskin said the bill isn’t about any particular annexation proposal but it’s about making the process more transparent.

She said many people are surprised to learn that residents of cities don’t get to vote in annexation referendums.

“I think it’s important for transparency purposes, so all affected citizens can do their due diligence,” she said.

Both Decatur and Avondale Estates have proposed annexation plans to expand their borders. So far, neither city’s plan has been introduced as legislation.

The annexation proposals are a response to plans to create new cities in DeKalb County. There are currently proposals for the cities of LaVista Hills, Tucker, Greenhaven and Stonecrest. Those new cities would consist of currently unincorporated areas in DeKalb County.

While Avondale and Decatur’s plans are not in conflict, a portion of Decatur’s annexation map and the map for the proposed city of LaVista Hills are in conflict with an annexation proposal for Atlanta. That proposal, championed by Together in Atlanta, would bring the Druid Hills community, including Emory University and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, into the city of Atlanta. The TIA proposal also includes the attendance zones for Briar Vista Elementary and Fernbank Elementary. If it is approved, those schools, along with Druid Hills High, are expected to become part of Atlanta Public Schools.

Currently legislators are trying to resolve the boundary disputes between Together in Atlanta and LaVista Hills.

Read more: HB 360. 


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Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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  • Mike

    Seems pretty reasonable and rational to allow residents to vote on annexation. Hope this bills gets the necessary traction and support for a real discussion by the legislature.

  • Tom Doolittle

    First–we have to ask ourselves why this come up THIS YEAR after so many decades of successful annexation law

    Second–we have to note that this proposal to change to annexation law would be yet another devolution of law that will occur as a RESULT of cityhood law was poorly written. The tail wagging the dog.

    Third–you can call this “The TIA Law”–so you have to handicap the likelihood of passage in the City of Atlanta ( a much different situation than for Avondale or even Decatur). Note the big diference between Atlanta and the other two is one of the most powerful institutions in Georgia and likewise (neighborhoods who have reeled in other neighborhoods that haven’t “opted in”) are in the Atlnata “plan”–and the City of Atlanta is on record as supporting (encouraging ) it.

    Whereas Decatur and Avondale have significant questions about adding residential areas.

    The main thing is, tho the amount of disruption the cityhood law has caused, under a debatable level of legitimacy. That will likely be proven in its own referendum, whose outcome is virtually a poll that someone thinks can be repeated if it loses.

  • CMR

    Sounds like 3 wolves and a sheep deciding what’s for dinner.

  • Tom Doolittle

    Mike–you bring up an interesting point–real discussion in the legislature. Cityhood “rights” and even a local annexation vote would rarely get the attention of the full legislature even when they vote on it. THIS proposal would because it would more clearly impact the entire state than local bills.

  • Judd

    Very interesting, indeed. Any comment from Decatur & AE officials?

    • I wanted to give them a second to digest it. I don’t think the bill was common knowledge. I will be in Avondale tonight and will ask there.

      • Judd

        I suppose anything except an expression of support would appear very strange.

  • Tom Doolittle

    I’m Parking this comment here for use on other blogs:

    “BTW–rather than take up changes to the current use cityhood law, which itself came from changes to cityhood law in 2005–there is a legislative proposal reacting to “Cityhood in DeKalb”–to what…change annexation law.

    How far will the devolution of law go–all due to one county–indeed one area of one county?

  • notapunk

    “‘I think it’s important for transparency purposes, so all affected citizens can do their due diligence,’ she said.”

    City Councils already vote on annexations on behalf of their constituents. That’s one of the things they’re elected to do. It would serve “affected citizens” better if they did their “due diligence” by paying attention to what the officials they elected are doing and perhaps even attending a city council meeting once in awhile.

  • Tom Doolittle

    Then there’s the question as to why the current residents in the City of Atlanta would want a “say” in another neighborhood (or Emory) being added to the tax roles–or is there some other “political” reason they would object. It’s only a “veto” vote–a “yes” vote means nothing–it doesn’t need to be said if they want it and Druid says yes–and it’s meaningless if Druid says no.
    Is this and end run against cityhood by adding one more complication? Is it an end run around legislators who want the Atlanta annexation.

    BTW–do NOT believe the REPUBLICAN from the City of Atlanta who says this isn’t targeted at any particular annexation proposal.

    • notapunk

      It’s a political reaction, nothing more. If it were to become law, some other politician will try to change the rules again to suit the political winds when they blow the other direction. Politicians don’t lead. They react. It’s so sad to watch.

  • abmagic

    Notapunk hit the nail on the head. The citizens of a city vote on their council members, who in turn must sponsor and pass a resolution adopting a proposed annexation, then work with local legislators to get the local resolution introduced at the Capitol. The time for them to weigh in on their concerns is not at the polls, but rather in the (supposed) debate and public input process afforded them when they elect public officials and through the regular city council work session and full meeting process.

    Further, this direction would potentially allow an area to be annexed against its will (which should never be the case). In an extreme example, imagine there is a city with an average residential value of $100,000 across it’s existing residences with a population of 5,000 residents. Adjoining this city there is a neighborhood of 1,000 residents in homes that are valued at $500,000 that is the target of annexation. The tax digests are equivalent, but the service delivery required by the smaller, pricier homes is clearly less costly than the existing city, and annexation would very much favor the existing residents. Even if the residents of the target annexation area have a 100% NO vote (1,000 total votes) against an annexation proposal by the adjoining city, it could be annexed with only a 60% + 1 YES vote for the exiting city.

    The current law allows neighborhoods or areas of annexation to self determine whether they want to join a city. This change would likely railroad a lot of neighborhoods, and flies in the face of annexation policy.

    • mbk

      The article states that there would be both a majority vote from the annexed area and a majority vote from the annexing city, meaning two separate majority votes and not a majority combined vote.

    • Dixie Firefly

      I agree abmagic, and Mbk, if there are two separate votes, then what if one is yes and one is no? Flip a coin? And what if a City only wants to annex a neighborhood into its borders only for the purpose taking peoples homes by eminent domain. I find this high-handed, selfish and sinister. A city should take care of its own problems without eating up its neighbors to satisfy its hunger. Anybody been following Putin?

  • An American Patriot

    Folks, this is what I’ve been saying for several years now. Even though I may have voted to elect a particular city commissioner, that doesn’t mean that I would agree with him/her on any particular issue. I believe citizens of a city should have the right to vote on whether or not to bring another area into our city and not just leave it up to the city commission. This is an important issue……as citizens of Decatur, we should have our say so. I hope the bill passes……it should, it’s only right.

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