City of Atlanta Pursuing Annexation of Druid Hills Neighborhood (UPDATE 3)
(APN) ATLANTA — The City of Atlanta is about to get a whole lot bigger, as the City is pursuing two annexation proposals. As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, the City is looking to annex part of unincorporated south Fulton County. In addition, the City is looking to annex part of the Druid Hills neighborhood in unincorporated northwest DeKalb County.
On November 19, 2014, the Druid Hills Civic Association Board (DHCA) endorsed a “call for a referendum on annexation.”
While the DHCA is not endorsing one side or the other, they state they want residents to have the right to choose. “This appears to be the question that needs to be answered by our residents in unincorporated DeKalb County,” according to the DHCA website.
The DHCA made their decision to file for a referendum based on survey results, which seemed to be mixed:
“The initial report to the survey committee appears below. The results reveal three important facts: (1) Residents oppose joining a new city. (2) A slight majority of residents are interested in Atlanta annexation. (3) A large minority of residents are interested in remaining in unincorporated DeKalb County.”
“I received the survey and I know most that filled it out were not interested. Many residents want to stay in unincorporated DeKalb. They will be speaking out and voting against it,” Leigh Ann Ledbetter, resident in the proposed annexation area, told APN.
In last month’s December 10, 2014, Atlanta City Council Finance and Executive Committee Meeting, Councilman Howard Shook (District 7) warned against any shortcuts in any annexation attempt: “I hope these annexations move forward in a coordinated rational way… It will be plain murder if it doesn’t go on that way.”
The Druid Hills historic neighborhood is east of Morningside and Lenox Park, north of Little Five Points, south of North Druid Hills, and west of North Decatur.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is in the northeast corner, and Emory University is near the center. Major intersections include North Decatur Road, with Briarcliff Road and with Clifton Road.
According to Councilman Alex Wan (District 6), there are roughly 20,000 residents in Druid Hills. City officials won’t confirm that number until they know for sure whether or not areas of south Fulton will also annex into Atlanta.
High property values, and thriving businesses, along with the CDC and Emory: these are the carrots that make annexation so inviting to the City of Atlanta.
“I think… the devil is in the details. Druid Hills has a lot of very nice homes. Things like service delivery… will be discussed at the Executive Committee (Finance/Executive Committee) Meeting. If they wanna come, they’re welcome to,” Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong (District 5), one of three Councilpersons whose district currently extends into DeKalb County, told Atlanta Progressive News. [The other two are Wan and Kwanza Hall (District 2).]
If Druid Hills remains unincorporated, those residents are responsible for taxes in that unincorporated area of DeKalb County and DeKalb County Schools.
If Druid Hills joins Atlanta, those residents would have line items for the City of Atlanta, Atlanta Public Schools, and a base-line tax for DeKalb County.
If they annex into Atlanta, most homeowners in the area will pay more in property taxes in the end, by an average of two hundred dollars per 100,000 dollars in value, per year.
The area of Druid Hills is known for its higher-end homes, assuring the City of Atlanta would generate significant revenue upon its annexation.
For a house assessed at 200,000 dollars or below, taxes would go down 179 dollars; however, most, if not all, homes in Druid Hills are valued at above that amount.
For homes valued at above 200,000 dollars, property tax assessments will increase at approximately 200 dollars per 100,000 dollars in assessed value per year.
It is unknown what the service cost will be to these residents as well.
“Together in Atlanta… has filed our proposed Atlanta Annexation map that includes the Fernbank ES (elementary school) and Briar Vista ES attendance zones that feed into Druid Hills High School. That will be my focus going into the 2015 Legislative Session,” Anne Wallace, Chair of the Cityhood and Annexation Committee for DHCA, and soon to be Steering Committee member for Together in Atlanta, the pro-annexation group, told APN.
“The Mayor welcomes the map; the city would have an operational plan… city services… tax revenue and present that [referendum] to the public November of 2015,” Councilman Wan, Chairman of Finance/Executive Cmte, said during the recent Cmte meeting.
Both Druid Hills and areas of south Fulton County are being considered for annexation by the city.
According to APN sources, Sandtown in south Fulton has been offered a ten year tax abatement by Mayor Kasim Reed for joining the City of Atlanta. This brought some strained laughs to the Finance meeting.
“We’ve seen smaller areas of annexation. Those are bare-boned. There is going to be a whole lot more than just picking up the trash. We would be well-off if we get a top level analysis. What is going in and what is going out. Are all of us getting a ten year tax abatement or just some of us?” Shook said.
Besides the residents who are up in arms about the move, there does not appear to be any organized anti-annexation group.
“Despite our calls in the past, no advocacy group for unincorporated DeKalb has identified itself to date. Consequently, little material has been provided on this option for publication,” the DHCA states on its website.
CORRECTIONS: A previous version of this article stated that Druid Hills is in northeast DeKalb; it is in fact in northwest DeKalb. The previous version also included incorrect information about the location of North Druid Hills; the article has been corrected to include appropriate landmarks and reference points.
A previous version of this article stated that Archibong is the only Councilperson to represent a part of DeKalb County. In fact, Kwanza Hall (District 2) represents parts of Candler Park and Little Five Points; end part of Alex Wan’s District 6 also extends in DeKalb County.