Fired-up crowd packs Town Hall on Cityhood and Annexation
By Dena Mellick
It was a packed house Thursday evening at state Senator Elena Parent’s (D-SD 42) Town Hall on Cityhood and Annexation at Young Israel of Toco Hills. Many members of the audience wore stickers indicating their viewpoint on cityhood and annexation.
Parent began by explaining the statuses of the various cityhood and annexation bills. She projected a Google map created by Decaturish reader Andrew Feury that shows the proposed city and annexation boundaries. And around the room, additional maps were taped to the walls, including the Atlanta annexation map released Thursday.
Parent started with the cityhood initiatives, telling the audience that the bills for the cities of Tucker, LaVista Hills, and South Fulton have cleared the Georgia House of Representatives and will go to the state Senate.
Parent said legislation for the city of Greenhaven may be introduced today.
“The Greenhaven and Stonecrest proposals are in some ways behind the three that have already passed House Governmental Affairs. It’s unclear to me whether those would advance this year, however, Senator Ramsey (D-SD 43) is attempting to pass the Stonecrest bill via local legislation, which doesn’t follow the same time structures that the general legislation does. So theoretically that bill could advance if it were permitted to follow a local process.”
Parent then ran through details about current annexation proposals. She noted that the just-released Atlanta annexation map will change.
State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, also confirmed this, telling Decaturish Thursday, “We anticipate making relatively small map adjustments in the next few days, perhaps by early next week.”
Parent told the crowd, “An annexation into Atlanta, of course, could bring a very large change, not only for the students and families in an area who would be annexed into either Decatur or Atlanta, but certainly also to the residents that would remain in the DeKalb county schools, especially those who would be in the current Druid Hills cluster.”
The state senator said she’s trying to determine what’s best for people in her district. “I really have been a little bit more seeking the lay of the land, because I don’t want to choose one group over the rest, especially if I feel it’s disadvantaging significant portions of my constituency. I also have long had problems with the process that has ended up with this mess,” Parent said.
The audience broke into applause when Parent added, “Any time you are dealing with a new city or annexation it will always be messy, it will always be contentious, and it will always be difficult. However, I think ours is starting to get at the absurd level.”
Parent said she plans to introduce a bill in the next few days addressing the annexation and cityhood legislative process.
When she opened the floor for questions, eager hands popped up across the room.
One person wanted to know whether LaVista Hills was even financially viable. Parent said an updated feasibility study is in the works.
Several questions focused on how to get out of a proposed annexation or cityhood territory or how to request a boundary be moved. Parent recommended contacting their representatives to get changes to the maps.
Many asked questions about the fate of schools – how both staff and students would be affected. One woman became emotional explaining her concern that her daughter might have to leave Fernbank Elementary if Atlanta annexed it. She felt she didn’t have a say in the matter. Senator Parent said she was concerned about the process taking options away from certain sections of the population.
At the end of the nearly two-hour meeting, Parent conducted an informal poll of neighborhoods in order to get an idea of where people preferred to end up. Just before she asked for a show of hands, she said, “These issues are really difficult and really hard on communities and neighbors, and I just want everyone to be respectful of everyone else. … We all have it really good. Let’s keep it in perspective. We’ll all survive.”
Editor’s Note: Decaturish reader Andrew Feury has been updating this Google map for us, outlining the different cityhood and annexation proposals.