City of Chamblee Fixing to Annex Much of the “LaVista Hills” Map (UPDATE 1)
(APN) CHAMBLEE — Tonight, Thursday, February 11, 2016, during a public hearing called for 6:30 p.m., the City of Chamblee City Council will be hearing public testimony on a resolution to express their support for a referendum on whether to annex a northern section of DeKalb County that was formerly part of the proposed City of LaVista Hills (LVH).
UPDATE 1: Mayor Pro Tem Brian Mock (At Large) contacted Atlanta Progressive News to clarify that the Council will not be voting tonight. “Just to be clear, there will be no vote on this resolution tonight. We are still exploring the idea, looking at numbers and talking with citizens. We are not in a position to take action on this item this evening,” Mock said.
The City of Chamblee hosted a Public Information Meeting on Monday, February 08, 2016, to discuss the proposal.
The next meeting will be February 18, 2016 at Lakeside High School and Chamblee’s elected officials are saying they want to hear from their constituents over the next couple weeks.
Some of the organizations that were behind last year’s push for LVH, which failed in a November 2015 referendum, are pushing hard and fast on annexation of those northern precincts that voted yes to cityhood.
After the LaVista Hills cityhood effort failed in a referendum, Mary Kay Woodworth, Co-Chair of LaVista Hills Yes, said that they started to think about their next option on how to become a full service city. Annexation was the answer.
Woodworth expressed a concern that the City of Tucker and the City of Brookhaven would take all the unincorporated commercial areas in that footprint; and then her community would not be an attractive option to be annexed into a full service city like Chamblee. Commercial areas are an important resource for cities’ budgets.
“The area I represent, 61 percent of the people voted yes for cityhood,” State Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), who represents that area of DeKalb County, said at the meeting, referring to the vote on LVH.
So that is how the second rush to cityhood started,, with representatives from LVH and Citizens for Cityhood calling Mayor of Chamblee Eric Clarkson, and asking to be annexed into the city.
The approximate 150 people at the first meeting, mostly from Chamblee, were not as enthusiastic about the annexation as the Mayor.
In fact, a few citizens were downright hostile to the idea. One woman said that people on social media do not want it. Most felt the entire process was too rushed.
There were several verbal complaints about only written questions being allowed.
One man asked for a show of hands on who supports annexation and who does not so our representatives, in the room, can have an idea where we are starting from. That vote did not happen.
State Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta) said he learned about the annexation two weeks ago when he got a call from Mayor Clarkson.
Rep. Holcomb explained the process by which the Legislature could set a referendum on annexation.
As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, annexations can also be accomplished by petition methods, but that does not appear to be what elected officials are trying to do here.
Holcomb said it would need to be a local legislation bill proposed by the DeKalb Delegation to move forward. A majority of members in both the State House and Senate would need to approve and pass it. It would then go to a November referendum for a vote by the people in the annexed area.
Chamblee residents questioned that process, asking why they do not have a vote in the referendum on annexation.
“That’s how it’s always been done,” Sen. Millar said.
Other concerns from Chamblee residents are that taking approximately 35,000 new residents into their city would dilute city services and raise taxes
Chamblee currently has about 29,000 residents and the annexation would more than double their size.
The proposed map’s western boundary line runs along I-85 down to the southern boundary line, which follows Briarlake Road and then hugs the City of Tucker lines northward to the Gwinnett County line and back to I-85.
Those in the proposed annexed area in support say they want local representation; better roads, sidewalks, and drainage; more parks, and especially their own police force.
Chamblee currently has a ratio of one police officer for every five hundred residents. Chamblee would need to hire many more officers, plus parole cars, and equipment to provide the same police protection to 35,000 additional residents.
Woodworth and Ben Shackleford, Citizens for Cityhood, said that the annexed area can offer Chamblee more people with college degrees, excellent schools, expensive homes, Northlake Mall, underdeveloped commercial space, and Mercer University.
All of these extended services, to more people than is currently living in Chamblee, will cost money. Where that money will come from is unclear.
Marc Johnson, the City Manager, assured the gathering that the tax rate would stay the same or be less. Not everyone in the room was buying that.
Mayor Clarkson said he has more confidence in the Chamblee staff to crunch the numbers, rather than the Carl Vinson Institute, which prepares feasibility studies for cityhood proposals.
Thus, they do not plan to seek a true feasibility analysis of this proposal before a vote. Other financial aspects of the annexation are yet to be revealed.
“So far, what we have been reading on Next Door is negative, but that is a small portion of our population. I need to hear from more people who have questions they need answered, are just on the fence, or are in favor of it,” Chamblee City Councilwoman Leslie Robson (District 2) told APN.
Constituents are urged to talk with their City Council members about how they feel on this annexation, so their voice can be heard.
UPDATE 1 and CORRECTION: As noted above, an earlier version of this article stated that the Council would be voting tonight. However, according to Mayor Pro Tem Mock, there will not be a vote tonight. It is on the agenda for a public hearing.
In answer to the problem this article poses, “All of these extended services, to more people than is currently living in Chamblee, will cost money. Where that money will come from is unclear.” It is not unclear where the money will come from. If this proposed annexation succeeds, the money will come from taxes Dekalb County currently collects for the services Chamblee will have to perform in the annexed areas. The notion that the proposed annexation is somehow not feasible financially defies logic. Dekalb County does just fine with the tax monies it collects from the proposed annexation, and Chamblee will do the same.
Russell, it is not at all clear. This “annexation”, which is really an invasion, would require tons of new infrastructure and I have seen several analyses indicating that there is no way this annexation will pay for itself. The one commercial center in your area is an abysmal failure that will continue its downfall for many years to come. Your property values are not increasing as quickly as those in Chamblee, so over time your contribution from a tax base perspective will decrease. You want parks, yet you have none right now so the city would be buying the land for them, unlike the areas that were previously annexed that simply need a makeover rather than the purchase of new land. And then there’s the matter of numerous dams that are about to fail in Ben Shackleford’s and MKW’s backyards. This annexation has always smelled bad to us here in Chamblee, and with the damn dam issue I think we have found the nasty, stinking rat.
I think many of you are expecting better water bills; however, Dekalb County provides our water. Our planning department is incompetent, so there goes that perception of better planning for annexation. I think you should go and make nice with the city of Tucker while there is still time before they annex your failing commercial center.
Outside of that, we do have better trash services, police services, and public works services, but we pay a tax premium for that. The amount Dekalb County currently receives from you for these services will not be sufficient for you to have the same services we have. YOUR TAXES WILL HAVE TO GO UP. I certainly have no intention of subsidizing your area for these services or to build/fix your infrastructure.
In addition to that, there are numerous non-financial issues why Chamblee residents think this is a bad, bad idea. Loss of local control and ability to dictate the future of Chamblee, loss of focus on things that are important to us, such as downtown development and development of recreational opportunities, and other downsides make this a very, very bad deal for Chamblee residents.
To residents in and around the Tucker area who are accustomed to allowing their children to keep laying hens, Chamblee has an anti-chicken ordinance. When we were annexed into Chamblee several years ago, one family obtained “grandfathered” status and was allowed to keep their chickens. They negotiated that prior to the annexation. And they are not allowed to replace any chickens that die of old age or that are killed by predators.
Chamblee also strictly enforces, via ticketing, grass length and whether a car parked beside the road is parked with or against traffic. We have neighbors who were required to remove their firewood from their front porch. Otherwise, they were subject to ticketing.
Furthermore, the animal control officer is too frequently seen driving around looking for animals for my comfort level. To be fair, I have not studied the matter, comparing pre-annexation and post-annexation numbers, so I could be wrong, but it seems the number of posters placed by neighbors searching for lost cats and other pets has increased since annexation. Again, it could be coincidence or misperception on my part: so, take this last remark with a grain of salt.