Atlanta annexation supporters: Petition, not legislation, only realistic option
The group pushing to annex a large swath of unincorporated DeKalb County into Atlanta have signaled that they don’t expect their efforts to be successful in the near future.
Together in Atlanta released a position statement on Monday, Nov. 9, in reaction to the apparent defeat of the LaVista Hills cityhood vote. The group was pursuing annexation of Druid Hills, including Emory and the Centers for Disease Control, into the city of Atlanta through legislative action. Legislative action is one of several methods of annexing unincorporated areas into new cities. Another method is a petition from property owners, but that tends to occur on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.
TIA’s statement doesn’t explicitly say that their annexation effort is dead. It does, however, imply that it is going to be more challenging than supporters had hoped.
“Annexation of any large area will continue to be challenging until our state legislative delegations support a democratic process for self-determination,” the statement says. “The only realistic method available for Atlanta Annexation in the foreseeable future is by 60 petition. After the 2015 legislative session ended without an Atlanta Annexation bill, Edmund Park area of Druid Hills (120 homes) filed a petition and went through the process in 7 months. Edmund Park was annexed to City of Atlanta in 2015.”
TIA’s proposal would’ve included Briar Vista and Fernbank Elementary Schools, as well as Druid Hills High, raising questions about whether they would become part of Atlanta Public Schools or would remain under control of DeKalb County Schools.
If the schools were to go to Atlanta, it would’ve disrupted the feeder patterns of the other schools that feed into Druid Hills High, including Avondale Elementary, Laurel Ridge Elementary, McLendon Elementary and Druid Hills Middle.
The LaVista Hills vote is still being challenged. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into allegations of voter irregularities. LaVista Hills supporters have retained legal counsel.
Here is the full statement from Together in Atlanta:
November 9, 2015 – For Immediate Release
Together In Atlanta congratulates the new City of Tucker on its success in formalizing incorporation of an area many citizens of DeKalb County already believed to be a city.
The apparent defeat of the LaVista Hills referendum now allows a large group of citizens in DeKalb County to focus on the revitalization and overhaul of DeKalb County Government. With the passage of an Ethics Reform referendum on November 3rd and the appointment of the Audit Oversight Committee, we are hopeful that needed reform will happen.
Annexation of any large area will continue to be challenging until our state legislative delegations support a democratic process for self-determination.
The only realistic method available for Atlanta Annexation in the foreseeable future is by 60% Petition. After the 2015 legislative session ended without an Atlanta Annexation bill, Edmund Park area of Druid Hills (120 homes) filed a petition and went through the process in 7 months. Edmund Park was annexed to City of Atlanta in 2015.
The absence of a Senior Exemption from School Taxes in City of Atlanta remains a deterrent to the desirability of that transition for Senior Citizens living in unincorporated DeKalb County. The exemption is worth thousands of dollars to residents over 70 with modest non-retirement income.
Recent legal decisions and positions adopted by cities have made it difficult to reduce disruption of school populations in the context of annexation. Local courts are considering the question of whether schools can continue to be run by the County School Board in an area annexing to a municipality with an independent school district. Until the question is settled, this unknown is a complication that might defeat annexation to City of Atlanta. (City of Atlanta v. Atlanta Independent School System, Civil Action No. 2015CV258510, presently on appeal)
Together In Atlanta looks forward to being active in the reform of DeKalb County Government. We intend to remain involved in the revision of antiquated laws and regulations that prevent citizens from having a strong voice in their choice of local government and elected officials. We will actively support qualified candidates and hold them accountable once elected.
Together In Atlanta will continue to explore all options that improve DeKalb County.