DeKalb’s Medlock Park Left out of Annexation, Cityhood Plans

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medlock(APN) DEKALB COUNTY — On Thursday, January 22, 2015, the Medlock Area Neighborhood Association (MANA) held a special meeting to discuss whether to staying in unincorporated DeKalb County or whether to annex into Atlanta.

 

The nearby City of Decatur is looking to annex business areas, so to boost their tax base, but is not seeking to annex the residential neighborhood of Medlock Park.  Meanwhile, the residents of Medlock Park have said they do not wish to join the proposed new city of LaVista Hills.

 

Thus, if all the current annexation proposals go forward, including the City of Atlanta annexation of Druid Hills, then Medlock Park will be left as the last unincorporated neighborhood in that part of DeKalb County.

 

DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader (District 2) and Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan (District 6) spoke at the meeting.

 

MANA is concerned about losing Druid Hills High School if nearby Druid Hills and Clairmont Heights neighborhoods area successfully annex into the City of Atlanta.

 

“We have seen the proposed Atlanta annexation map and our closest neighbor Clairmont Heights and three of DeKalb County schools including Druid Hills High School will go to Atlanta.  Some feel we should stay aligned with them,” Teresa Same with MANA said at the meeting.

 

Residents worried their children could not continue to attend Fernbank Elementary or Druid Hill High School, if Medlock was not annexed into Atlanta.

 

“There is no guarantee [that kids will stay in the same school] unless an intergovernmental agreement gets struck between Atlanta Public School and DeKalb County schools.  There is support for that option… Annexation without out an intergovernmental agreement is going to disrupt the attendance zones,” Wan warned.

 

“The next fight is to keep the attendance zones together.  It is two different fights,” Wan said.

 

Lots of questions were asked about the schools, but Medlock Park does not have a large school age child population.  Medlock Park does have a large senior citizen population.

 

But if Medlock is annexed into Atlanta, due to the loss of senior citizen property tax exemptions, seniors would see their property taxes skyrocket upward, leaving many elderly residents struggling to pay their property taxes each year.  Those on fixed incomes could possibly even lose their homes as a result.

 

For example, a 200,000 dollars home in unincorporated DeKalb County costs about 712 dollars per year in property taxes for seniors, but in Atlanta it would almost triple to 1,806 dollars.  Annexing into Decatur, although currently not an option, would also increase the senior tax rate.

 

Another concern of residents is that if Medlock stays unincorporated and becomes an unincorporated island, that politicians in the Legislature would assign Medlock to an existing or proposed new city without hearing the residents’ preference.

 

However, Councilman Wan thinks there is no harm in waiting, and Medlock should keep all their options open going forward.

 

“I don’t think you should worry that you will be forced, as a matter of being an island, into any particular jurisdiction,” Commissioner Rader said.

 

The Medlock area is urban enough with an extensive road network that services will continue to be delivered.

 

“The cost of those services may go up as annexations and incorporations whittle away at the County’s tax base,” Rader explained.

 

On Medlock Park’s west side is annexation into Atlanta; on the north side is the proposed city of LaVista Hills; on the south side is Decatur’s plan to annex most of the commercial area adjacent to Medlock.

 

Many Medlock residents are upset that Decatur is taking the commercial area but does not want the residential area, and think this is unfair.

 

Commissioner Rader explains how Decatur is able to do this: “If it is less than twenty percent residential, they could do it without a referendum – just unilaterally say we are moving these areas into Decatur.  They are trying to thread the needle so they don’t have to have a referendum.”

 

“Decatur’s argument is, we are so cash strapped that we need the commercial area in order to make our budget,” Rader said.

 

Atlanta Progressive News submitted a written question to the panel: what is behind the rush to cityhood and annexation?

 

“In the case of our new cities and their boundaries and the annexations, it is the tax base.  It’s that sucking sound when you see your tax base shifting over into another jurisdiction.  That I think is driving the big tensions over this.  If someone beats you to the target first, they are going to get the taxes,” Rader answered.

 

Neighborhood surveys also show little support for proposed new cities or annexation.

 

All these new cityhood proposals and annexation is causing a feeding frenzy and has citizens running scared.

 

A new group DeKalbStrong.com is calling for a moratorium on cityhood and annexation proposals in DeKalb County to give citizens time to participate in a comprehensive and equitable process for improving DeKalb County governance.

 

The cityhood movement will have huge consequences for schools, quality of life, and taxes in all of DeKalb County, according to DeKalb Strong.

 

The sudden push for everyone to either join a proposed new city or annex into a city is fraught with misinformation, shifting boundaries, unanswered questions about taxes, broken school districts, split neighborhoods, duplication of services, and more bureaucracy; and takes money away from DeKalb County.

 

DeKalbStrong.com is concerned that the current push for new cities and annexations in DeKalb County is a frenzy of poorly planned land grabbing by a few small self-interested groups.

 

“Everything is in the hands of the State Legislature, in terms of moving a boundary, saying yes or no to authorizing a referendum on either annexation or the city.  The most effective thing citizens can do at this point is reach out to your State Representatives,” Wan said.

 

Many citizens feel trapped that they are being forced to choose between new cities or annexation into existing cities – when they just want to remain in unincorporated DeKalb County.

 

Due to DeKalb Strong now citizens can have another choice: A moratorium to stop everything.

 

Yard signs were passed out by some residents, at the end of the meeting, to support a moratorium.

(END/2015)

10 comments

  • Our entire Medlock neighborhood is zoned to a wonderful neighborhood school, Laurel Ridge Elementary -not Fernbank Elementary as incorrectly stated in this article. Additionally, I’m not sure it remains accurate that we have a low population of school aged children – certainly, that was the case 10 years ago, but I’m seeing a lot more families with preschool aged children.

    • Thank you for the correction. Medlock Park is districted for attendance to Laurel Ridge Elementary, Druid Hills Middle School and Druid Hills High School, all part of the DeKalb County School District.

  • City of Decatur sued over Annexation DeKalb County Superior General Civil Case #15CV1437
    http://www.midwaywoods.com

  • We as residents are being held with a gun barrel pointed at our head. The tactic is fear. We are being told that we will have to pay more taxes than the others in the county if we do not form a city. I say take the issue to court.

    What are the options in south DeKalb? Create a city, create multiple small cities, or maintain the status quo. The new south DeKalb city as proposed by the Concerned Citizens for Cityhood in South DeKalb would be smaller in land size than the city of Atlanta, and would include approximately 300,000 residents. The city would be approximately 90% African American. It would be largest in DeKalb by far, and it would be the second largest city in the State of Georgia.

    The largest city in DeKalb is Dunwoody and Brookhaven which has 46,000 and 49,000 residents, Both Brookhaven and Dunwoody already had significant economic development in their communities prior to their becoming cities in their own right.

    I do believe that south DeKalb could exist as a city or cities, but it will not be as the CCCSD portray it. The annexation laws should be made stricter, alternative forms of quasi-governmental communities should be considered, private residential associations communities and special districts could also be alternatives to cityhood.

    The CCCSD main rational is economic development, avoiding higher taxes and protecting assets. How is the CCCSD defining economic development, is it tax reduction? How will it achieve the economic development that it is portraying in their vision? The elephant in the room that some people want to ignore is that business investments tend not to be significant in areas that have a population of color over 65 percent. New municipalities can impact taxes, school districts, land-use, growth control, environmental regulations, elected representation and public utility services. New municipalities can lead to fragmentation and competition for financial resources between local governments.
    The process of forming cities should require a petition before an organization or person can represent themselves as speaking for the community or in the name of the citizens.

    There are a lot of unanswered questions that citizens in South DeKalb do not know about in terms of the form of government the new proposed city will have. What kind of mayor or city manager will this new proposed city have? Will the city council be strong? What kind ethnics review will be in the charter?
    There should be a way for citizens in South DeKalb opt out of the new city if it does not want to be a part of the shot gun city.

    I think the citizens of DeKalb would be better served if the CCCSD would file a court case against the county and the other cities in regards to the tax liabilities and pension obligations that are not being shared by all the property owners of the county. How can a new city such as the city of Dunwoody or Brookhaven not be equally responsible for pension and bonds that were already obligated prior to their cityhood make no sense.

    It would be equally appropriate if our political leaders in DeKalb ask the State Legislators to amend the annexations and consolidation laws to prohibit hostile takeovers, without the consent of the governed. Some states have laws that require the cities to make up for the lose revenue of the county.

    It seems that shotgun cities are appearing all over the DeKalb County. Who will pay the county bills once all the local communities become cities? I would suggest that the state Legislature stop this cityhood movement in the county. The county needs leadership on this issue. The citizens should not remain silent on this issue.

    Ed Williams lives in Decatur

  • Some Reasons Why the Cityhood in south DeKalb want fly

    Concerned Citizens Against Cityhood of South DeKalb

    1. Business Closing (Stonecrest Mall in bankruptcy) (Theater closed in South DeKalb Mall)
    2. School closing and consolidation that took place in the last couple years in South DeKalb
    3. Home property values dropped since 2008
    4. Capital flight
    5. Crime
    6. Drugs
    7. Education outcomes several elemental school on the fail list in South DeKalb

    Concerned Citizens for Effective Government (DeKalb Georgia)
    Blog: ccegdekalb.blogspot.com

  • Why does the Greenhaven skyline logo look like the New York skyline. The new city of South DeKalb want ever look like New York City. There are no skycrapers in South DeKalb. The logos for Dunwoody, Brookhaven and the other cities are more realistic.

  • Reasons why the new city of Greenhaven (south DeKalb) should not be created.

    1. The ruff on fire fear tactic approach is not a good way to make public policy. At the very least, citizens should be given time to consider the options and evaluate what another layer government would mean for the region. The rationale that proponents use for the justification for a new city in south DeKalb to leverage resources and focus efforts on economic development and annexation are not the only factors to be considered when creating a new city. There are many other factors that residents should consider in order to evaluate rather forming a city would be a good idea. Alternatives have not been presented to residents in the affected area. For example, smaller cities, opting out of the city, change the annexation laws, court action. Alternative forms of quasi-governmental communities should be considered, private residential associations or communities and special districts could also be alternatives to cityhood. In addition, the impact on the County has not been evaluated and presented as to what would likely happen if all the unincorporated areas became cities. The objectives, goals, and benefits have not been explained in any detail that could be evaluated. The Citizens Against Cityhood in south DeKalb believe that we can leverage resources and assets at the County level, particularly since the majority of the County commissioners and interim CEO are from south DeKalb.

    2. The fact that assets may be acquired by another city is not simple process. The community or property owner has to agree to the annexation. Annexation is being used as a scare tactic.

    3. There is no historical evidence that forming a city will provide significant private investment in a community that has 65% or greater African American population.

    4. The latest two cities of Dunwoody and Brookhaven taxes are expected to increase.

    5. The proposed new city of Greenhaven (south DeKalb) will only provide the following services initially Parks and Recreation, Zoning, and code enforcement. The County will continue to provide Water, Sanitation, Police and Fire, Library, 911, Ambulance, Marta, Hospital, Court services, Road, and many others.

    6. The name of the new city Greenhaven should be changed. The reason given for the name is suspect. The name will not change the region’s image, and the name has no relevance to the historical legacy or the future of the region. The name lacks appeal, it sounds like a funeral home or cemetery name. Instead of being a haven for people, the new city it will likely be where people come to parish.

    7. The creation of a new city will likely create the condition for the formation a new school district. This would likely split the DeKalb school district along North and South boundaries. This will impact property taxes, and will likely cause property taxes to dramatically increase. Ninety percent of the students in the DeKalb School System are African American and less than 10% are White.

    8. The proposed new city of Greenhaven (south DeKalb) will likely create the need to generate more revenue through code enforcement and ordinance. This would likely result in increase citations from the county and the new city.

    9. The proposed new city of Greenhaven (south DeKalb) should probably be smaller and residents should consider the formation of more than one city if there is a real need. Instead of a mega city.

    10. The residents in the affected areas have not been made aware of the issues of cityhood and its impact on their community and the county. Many residents would likely want to remain living in unincorporated DeKalb.

    11. The rationale for the new city is not valid. A new city being created in another part of DeKalb County is not a valid reason for south DeKalb citizens to do the same. The demographics are different. The majority of the DeKalb commissioners are citizens from south DeKalb, including the interim CEO. Central and south DeKalb already control the county legislative and executive body of DeKalb government. South DeKalb already is in the position to set the agenda. South DeKalb has to elect the right leaders.

    12, Cities cannot create private jobs. A city can create a friendly business climate, if the right people are elected. The new jobs that the new proposed city would create will likely come at the expense of lost revenue of DeKalb county. The County would likely experience a work force reduction, as a consequence of the formation of new cities.

    13. The Carl Vinson Institute report was a feasibility study and which only evaluated that financial viability of a new city. The report was based on a minimum city services: Parks and recreation, zoning, and code enforcement. The report did not include and qualitative data or resident interviews. The study did not use similar city demographics to compare costs, and the report did not consider the impact of the new city impact on the DeKalb County as a government. The report does not valid the necessity or efficacy of forming a new city. The report does not consider the views of the residents of the affected area.

  • The position of Concerned Citizens Against Cityhood in South DeKalb (CCACSD) – Ed Williams, Chair

    Website: ccegdekalb.blogspot.com

    You can also send an email to : truthcrushtheearth@gmail.com

    You can also visit us at
    https://www.facebook.com/ccegdekalb

    Don’t Believe the Hype. The city of East Saint Louis is what South DeKalb “Greenhaven” could look like if the cityhood bill is passed for South DeKalb. Crime and corruption on steroids. Quality of Life and small town values will be lost if the cityhood is promoted in DeKalb. We are a suburb of Atlanta. We live here in unincorporated DeKalb because we do not want to be in an urban center.

    There are border issues with the proposed city of Greenhaven and the City of Lithonia, Stonecrest, Stone Mountain, and Decatur. In addition, there are several serious tax issues that should be resolved with DeKalb County as it relates to all these new cities attempting to avoid their tax obligations. Passing these cityhood bills will create greater issues with DeKalb County pensions and bonds accounts. The tax and funding inequity will ultimately in up in court, Particularly since many lawmakers appear to be ignoring their fiduciary responsibility with allowing the new cities to avoid the pension and bond payments to the county.

    The Carl Vinson Institute report was a feasibility study and it only evaluated the financial viability of the proposed new city. The report was based on minimum city services: Parks and recreation, zoning, and code enforcement. The report did not include and qualitative data or resident interviews. The study did not use similar city demographics to compare costs, and the report did not consider the impact of the new city impact on the DeKalb County as a government. The report does not validate the necessity or efficacy of forming a new city. The report did not consider the views of the residents of the affected area.

    The Communities and Neighborhoods did not have the opportunity to opt in or out of any of the boundaries of the proposed cities. We are being told that we only have the ability to say Yes or No at the end of process during the referendum. This does not make any sense. We should have some say so at the front end of the process, to rather communities are included in the new city boundaries. What if, where you lived, this was done to you? A group of people, that have not been elTected by anyone, drafts up a city proposal, creates a boundary map, and creates a charter and then ask the state to sanction it. You would be outraged, like I am.

    There are disputes over which neighborhoods should be included in the boundaries with Decatur, Lithonia and Stonecrest and other communities. There should be a timeout in order to keep this frenzy from becoming a nightmare for everyone.

    Hwang and Sampson, two researchers found that by the late 2000s, racial composition did in fact have a significant effect on a neighborhood’s chance of improvement and ultimate gentrification. The neighborhoods that saw the most improvement met a minimum threshold proportion of white residents—about 35 percent—and a maximum threshold of black residents—about 40 percent.

    These researchers found that the difference in reinvestment levels between neighborhoods of 35 and 45 percent black residents was more than twice the gap in extent of gentrification between neighborhoods of 5 and 15 percent black residents.

  • The position of Concerned Citizens Against Cityhood in South DeKalb (CCACSD) – Ed Williams, Chair

    Website: ccegdekalb.blogspot.com

    You can also send an email to : truthcrushtheearth@gmail.com

    You can also visit us at
    https://www.facebook.com/ccegdekalb

    Don’t Believe the Hype. The city of East Saint Louis is what South DeKalb “Greenhaven” could look like if the cityhood bill is passed for South DeKalb. Crime and corruption on steroids. Quality of Life and small town values will be lost if the cityhood is promoted in DeKalb. We are a suburb of Atlanta. We live here in unincorporated DeKalb because we do not want to be in an urban center.

  • “Leaders must go beyond bringing white people back to the city to reverse white flight, because resegregation is not the answer. The answer is not black and white. Segregation of race and class kills a region’s economy. For instance, a study called “The Equality of Opportunity Project” found that areas with greater mobility tend to have five characteristics: less segregation, less income inequality, better schools, greater social capital, and more stable families.”

    https://drive.google.com/…/0B6rHTsNOsLE_YnFPeG1QTXVLS…/view

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