Citizens, Norwood Respond to Bottoms’ Attacks as Loch Lomond Annexation Approved by Atlanta Council
(APN) ATLANTA — At the Monday, June 06, 2016 Full Council Meeting of the City Council of Atlanta, the Council unanimously approved, 16-O-1189, an ordinance by Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11) for the annexation of the Loch Lomond community.
As Atlanta Progressive News has chronicled, this is one of several City of Atlanta annexations that have taken place over the last couple years.
But the Loch Lomond annexation has perhaps been the most highly contentious annexation of late.
If the community does not join Atlanta by July 01, 2016, it would become part of the map for the proposed City of South Fulton that will be the subject of a vote in November 2016.
Earlier, at a May 25, 2016 Public Hearing, Councilwoman Bottoms attacked State Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta) for asking questions about various dates in the petition process. Rep. Beskin served on the State House Committee that has been reviewing the annexation and cityhood process in Georgia.
Bottoms then attacked several citizens, and made a general comment that seems to have upset Councilwoman Mary Norwood (Post 2-at-large).
“The interest on the south side… only comes up when talking about interest in adding residents to the south side,” Bottoms said.
Councilwoman Norwood took exception to the comment.
“I am also… a process person. I got involved in this annexation that I was asked to,” Norwood, who has been reviewing issues raised by citizens, said.
“I said the decision to come into the community is the community’s decision, but that I would certainly take a look, because I have a lot of experience with petitions… and… elections,” Norwood said.
“I’ve always wanted anything in this town to be fair for everyone. But when I came back down here, I did not come down to this City to cause any trouble, to dredge up the past, to do anything but move this City forward,” Norwood said.
“I have reviewed the [annexation] materials for every single section, whether it’s DeKalb on the northside, or South Fulton on the southside. The two areas were not treated differently, and would not be treated differently by me,” Norwood said.
“And those people who know me all over this town know that I care, I care passionately about every citizen, and I care passionately about fairness. And as long as I am elected to this City, that is what I will do,” Norwood said.
“Wow, this annexation conversation takes many twists and turns, and you can never quite expect,” Bottoms said.
“When I sit here and hear people call for investigations and accuse people of what would in fact be criminal wrongdoing and it’s directed at people in this community, that really upsets me,” Bottoms said.
“When I hear of robo-calls and the senior citizen version of bullying, it’s very… unsettling,” Bottoms said.
“This issue is dividing this community, and quite frankly, this division has come from people who don’t live in the community. If you’re really concerned about this community… I would say some of us should probably show that concern by staying out of the way,” Bottoms said.
“I’m not sure what it could possibly be worth to lie to senior citizens, to lie to them about their taxes, to tell them they will lose their houses if they come into the City of Atlanta? What could that possibly be worth? I’ve looked at the taxes,” Bottoms said, saying the difference between County and City taxes would be about 200 to 300 dollars.
“Joining the City of Atlanta… Those of you who don’t know, I’m going to assume you were misinformed. Those of you who do know, I’m going to assume you’re liars,” Bottoms said.
“Don’t do this to your community. Don’t do this based on what someone else wants,” she said.
At Monday’s Full Council Meeting, several Loch Lomond residents spoke in opposition to the annexation, while others spoke in support.
Brandon Bowen, a Cartersville-based attorney on behalf of Loch Lomond residents who are opposed to the annexation, presented his legal concerns.
“A few key issues. One, as you know, the petition… is well over a year old. We believe under the annexation statute it is no longer valid; it has expired because the statute provides for a one year period to obtain annexation signatures,” Bowen said.
“Second… under the 60 percent method you have to show both 60 percent of the resident electors in the District and also 60 percent of the land by owner,” Bowen said.
“There is actually much less than that presented by this petition… We actually took the figures from the Fulton County Geographic Information System. We look at the acreages of the lots that were listed under the petition and they only amount to 43 percent, and that is not enough to annex,” Bowen said.
“Also, we have concerns about the service plan,” he said.
“I just want to say to you, when I was here on the 25th [of May], my neighbors and I who are opposing this, after the comments, we were verbally attacked by our Councilperson [Bottoms], and I’m just hoping that that won’t happen today. We’ve been very respectful every time we’ve come down,” Jewel Johnson said.
“And it just hurts me to my heart that I’ve talked to a Council that wants my subdivision in their area and they want to talk to me in that matter. There’s nothing I’ve presented to you that equates to lies and being ill-informed. So I’m hoping when this is over that I won’t have that,” Johnson said.
“You all the authority to shut this down today,” Johnson said.
“It’s not because we don’t love Atlanta. We love Atlanta. A lot of us own property in Atlanta…. It’s just, it’s not right, it’s not procedural right. Last time I was here, I asked for an investigation… and I have not been heard,” Johnson said.
“We don’t need to take this into the Courtroom,” Johnson said.
“We want our shot to be able to vote in the November 08 referendum of 2016,” Leroy Stanley said.
“If you love something and you turn it loose and it comes back to you then the love is true. Release us so we can make our own decision. Much like Moses approached Pharaoh and said, let my people go,” Stanley said.
“It’s better to give than to receive, so give us our opportunity as citizens of America,” Stanley said.
Alice Hamilton testified she lives adjacent to Loch Lomond Estates, did not receive notice of the petition, and only very recently learned that her ten acre property was included in the annexation map.
“I’m requesting that you please remove my land,” she said.
“We followed the law as we were given, and I want you to know, neither did Mayor Reed nor any Member of the Council reached out to us to say come into to the City of Atlanta,” Dr. Lorraine Walton said.
“We’ve been to no homes in the middle of the night, knocking on the windows, telling me my property taxes are going to go up ten to fifteen thousand dollars,” she said.
“I did not ask to do it, but I was asked to do it,” Mary Harris, Project Coordinator, said.
“And in doing so, I did not have to form a committee. Members of the community came up and said, what can I do to help, and they started themselves to collect petitions in a most professional way,” Harris said.
“Our intent in the beginning was not to have long conversations with people that did not want to participate. Some people we knew, they had expressed that prior, and we did not entertain them, we knew their intentions,” Harris said.
“We never, never stooped to going to anyone’s door, bamming on it, telling lies,” she said.
“We had community meetings with the Committee to Create a New City with State Rep. Roger Bruce. He came to us on two separate occasions to explain to us the benefits of a new city,” Harris said, referring to the proposed City of South Fulton.
“Likewise we had representatives of the City of Atlanta along with Mayor Reed, and he expressed the desire and said it would be better,” she said.
“We listened to both. As far as the taxes are concerned, Commissioner Ferdinand came to our meeting. They were open to the public… He explained the tax system with various communities in the area. So we did it in the most professional manner; we ask that you consider us likewise,” she said.