DeKalb County, GA, November 25, 2014 – by Tom Doolittle – On November 19, the Druid Hills Civic Association (DHCA) board voted to endorse legislation that enables an annexation referendum, explained in this statement to the neighborhood … http://druidhills.org/2014/11/22/dhca-board-resolution/
The referendum question will be written by the neighborhood board and it reads: “Shall Druid Hills in unincorporated DeKalb County be annexed into the City of Atlanta?” The legislation requires only one delegate, not necessarily from Druid Hills, to sponsor it. The announcement emphasized that “… the DHCA is not taking an advocacy position at this time. We are attempting to enable our neighbors to make an informed decision.”
The presumption is that the annexation would encompass an area that was drawn on the premise of two elementary school zones, Fernbank and Briar Vista. The zone also includes large institutional “districts” on its border, Emory University and Executive Park. Emory could conceivably advocate not to be annexed, but has said it has no position in the matter—the map decision not being the university’s decision to make. The other Druid Hills boundary at Executive Park can be undone by the City of Brookhaven, which can unilaterally (without legislation) annex the commercial area abutting North Druid Hills Road at I-85.
Druid Hills’ discussion has stimulated more neighborhood-by-neighborhood polling about moving in that direction. Medlock Park has hosted representatives from the city of Atlanta in large meetings in an attempt to provide a choice of positions between remaining unincorporated, requesting annexation into Decatur and likewise, Atlanta—and being “drawn in” to the new Lavista Hills city map. Their polling was extensive, but for simplicity sake appears to favor the Decatur option and second, remaining unincorporated. A poll was taken by Woodland Hills, close to Executive Park, weighing annexation into Brookhaven and Atlanta—and Lavista Park, directly adjacent to the mammoth commercial area, is considering one. The recent Druid Hills-Atlanta endorsement (above) and the charter cluster group, now called “Together in Atlanta”(TIA) heightening public advocacy, have come after those polls were taken, so inclinations in the entire region is subject to change.
What has been a legislative issue over “mapping” new cities can now be viewed as one where legislators will draw annexation maps—in essence an expansion of its role in municipalization. If the House Government Affairs Committee does what Decatur Representative Mary Margaret Oliver implied in her latest newsletter, it will re-map a large section of DeKalb County, arbitrating between the wishes of nearly all localized efforts. Oliver wrote in her last community e-letter: “This week, the Chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee, Amy Carter from Valdosta, named the Arbitration Panel that will resolve possible border disputes for conflicting DeKalb County city and annexation proposals.”
This is a complicated set of scenarios, but one thing is clear. In many cases, a decision about one area will have reverberating effects on one or more others—and it may not be possible to solve every neighborhood conundrum in a step-wise, domino falling process. The impression is that decisions or at least opinions by neighborhoods must be made now and communicated to legislators, the message from their organizers being “the clock is ticking”. The legislative rules have been made to create a map for new Lavista Hills in the 2015 General Assembly and if Druid Hills’ annexation map is adopted, it will be in the same session. That means any neighborhoods that can elect to be included in either area will have to decide before that happens.
As if to underscore how quickly and how far the Atlanta issue could reach into unincorporated DeKalb, the young Laurel Hills/Shamrock Civic Association attracted a large audience on the same night as the Druid Hills decision last week, to discuss how annexation into Atlanta would impact them. Annexation of neighborhoods depends on being “contiguous” to either the city annexing them or an area under consideration for annexation by that city. Medlock Parks’ ultimate dispensation could open the door for contiguous Laurel Hills and potentially have “new Atlanta” reach nearly as far Northeast as I-285, deep into the proposed map of proposed City of Lavista Hills.