“No City” Movement Opposes Brookhaven’s Incorporation

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(APN) DEKALB COUNTY — During the July 31, 2012, Primary Election, residents of a proposed new City of Brookhaven will decide whether to incorporate and form a new city out of an area that is now unincorporated DeKalb County.

On March 31, 2012, HB 636, which allows for a referendum which will allow the residents of Brookhaven to vote and decide if Brookhaven will be incorporated and become its own city, was passed in the General Assembly.

State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-DeKalb) introduced this bill.  APN contacted Jacobs for comment to discuss his perceived benefits for incorporating Brookhaven, but he declined the interview.  Jacobs referred APN to the Brookhaven Yes website.

However, APN tried to contact press contact for Brookhaven Yes, but no one answered and there was no way to leave a message.  APN also contacted the President of Brookhaven Yes for an interview, but received no response.

Advocates of the referendum claim that money will be saved and better services will be provided for the residents of the community of Brookhaven, but according to the Ashford Neighbors and the campaign “Say No City of Brookhaven” there are many problems with Brookhaven becoming its own city.

If incorporated, Brookhaven would become the sixth North DeKalb or North Fulton city to be incorporated in the last eight years.  Out of Fulton County, recently incorporated cities include Chattahoochee Hills, Johns Creek, Milton, and Sandy Springs.  Currently, the only remaining part of Fulton County that is unincorporated is in South Fulton.

Out of DeKalb County, Dunwoody has recently incorporated.  Opponents of incorporation see a similar movement to incorporate most or all of DeKalb County as has already been accomplished in Fulton.

During the legislative session, the proposed boundaries of Brookhaven changed several times, and even the name at one point changed to the City of Ashford.

The of map the current proposed area is 12.02 square miles, from I-285 in the north, to I-85 in the south, and from the DeKalb County line in the west, and a few miles east from there, with a population of 49,188.  

The proposed new city would be divided into four Council Districts.  The eastern boundary of the proposed new city would be Clairmont Road for the southern Districts, 2 and 4.  In the northern Council District, District 1, the eastern boundary would includes parts of Peachtree Road and Dunwoody Road.

According to Judy Cobb, former President of the Drew Valley Civic Association, “Georgia law requires that only three services are to be taken over in order for a designated area to become its own city.”  

In Brookhaven, the services they provide will be Police, Code, Zoning and Planning, Parks and Recreation, and Roads and Drainage.

“All other services will remain with DeKalb county, and DeKalb County’s line budget item for that service will be given to the proposed city.  For example, if the DeKalb County budget allows for one million to be allocated for police, the million will be given to the proposed city.  That would be fine, except the actual money may go way past that amount, which can cause many problems for residents,” Cobb told Atlanta Progressive News.

“There is also a dispute on the proposed budget, for example, there is more being spent on parks and recreation, but it is not clear how or what other services will be reduced,” Cobb said.

During an event held by the No City campaign, many Brookhaven community residents were very concerned, and said they were just learning about the involved issues.

Developer Tom Cousins said at the event that he had just found out about the referendum when reading the paper.

His wife, Ann Cousins, commented, “We have been very happy with the services being offered.”

The safety of residents is also an issue.

Cobb is concerned about safety, saying “the new budget allows for only 53 police officers when now they provide 84 police.  These numbers are from the Carl Vinson Institute’s Feasibility Study.  CVI financially allows for 53 police officers for over 49,000 citizens, which is much lower per capita than any other city on average.  Where will the additional money come from?  Crime in the new proposed area has the highest crime rate in North DeKalb, so safety is a concern.”

Although the reason for incorporating Brookhaven into its own city is to streamline government, DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader (District 2) tells APN, “that is not the case.  Another layer of government will be added.  We will still have the same DeKalb County government, with the   current commissioners, but additional politicians and a new layer of government will be added.”

As for the economic feasibility, Cobb states, “although we are told that we will save money and get better service, that is not the case.”

“If the new city taxes needs to use the full millage rate of 3.35 percent in order to provide the promised services, you will receive six dollars and 22 cents in savings per year.  Since the tax rate is capped, the only way to raise money could mean more traffic tickets, higher utility fees, code fees, higher building permit fees required to run the City,” Cobb said.

“If Brookhaven becomes a city there would be a brand new zoning and land use code written from scratch.  This means that all the provisions that neighbors have fought for over the years will no longer be in effect,” Cobb said.

Cobb also has concerns that residents’ utility franchise fees will go up.

“Franchise Fees are the taxes charged to utility companies for the use of the public right of way for utility poles, pipes, and cabling.  Incorporated cities such as what Brookhaven could possibly become, are allowed to charge the utility companies higher percentages than counties.  As a result, the utility companies pass that extra charge along to the consumer.  We will pay more and get less,” she said.

According to Cobb, “the Georgia Power franchise taxes will be an additional two percent on top of the 1.2 percent and the landline phone bill will add three percent (percentages based on utility bills from a home in Dunwoody), totaling fifty dollars and four cents per year.  So, your out of pocket expenses will be an extra 43 dollars and 80 cents.”

Another concern is that the newly incorporated City of Dunwoody recently raised its stormwater fees.

On February 27, 2012, the City Council of Dunwoody voted unanimously to raise stormwater fees from 48 dollars to 69 dollars for most homeowners.

Commissioner Rader also states, “the loss of revenue can hurt the county financially, causing a problem for the South DeKalb residents, who cannot afford to lose the revenue.  Unfortunately, the residents of South DeKalb cannot vote, which is unfortunate because the loss of revenue will affect them also.”

(END/2012)

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