Central DeKalb County, GA, December 19, 2014 – by Dan Wright, Contributor – The leadership of several established Central DeKalb County communities have joined together to create a single continuous block that stretches five miles eastward from the City of Atlanta to North DeKalb Mall.
These communities are expressing a clear preference to be excluded from the currently proposed city and annexation maps.
The neighborhoods of LaVista Park, Merry Hills, North Druid Hills, North Amanda Circle, Leafmore, and Laurel Ridge Shamrock are reluctant to make uninformed or hasty decisions about joining a city that could separate them from their neighborhood schools, parks, community centers and each other. Victoria Estates and Mason Mill residents made it clear in their surveys that a majority of them wish to remain unincorporated. Most groups conducted independent surveys recently and all reached similar conclusions, residents are concerned the important factors needed to make final decisions are not yet clear.
These neighborhoods are long-established stable communities that have enjoyed decades of high achieving public schools, strong home values, good county services as-well-as proximity to valuable jobs and commercial centers. Surveys asking what city would be preferred if a municipal choice has to be made immediately came to different conclusions and the answers vary widely based on proximity to other boundaries, schools and commercial centers. Many residents prefer to not be in a city at all.
During a public meeting early in December a resounding majority of LaVista Park, Merry Hills, and North Druid Hills expressed preference for deferring the decision to choose and many neighborhood residents signed petitions requesting a one or two year city formation moratorium. They asked for more time to retain qualified professionals to assess the real impacts of this deeply important decision that could impact everything from their real estate taxes, school choices, property values and elected representatives.
The Georgia legislative session begins in January and a 5-member special Boundary Arbitration Subcommittee of the Legislative Governmental Affairs Committee expects DeKalb county citizens to choose city referendum boundaries before the end of December, 2014. The neighborhoods held many meetings, met with elected officials and proposal supporters to gather information, but the issues and unresolved questions remain deeply complex.
The normal process requires two years for impact and feasibility analysis but new city proposal has been given an abbreviated schedule and the boundaries have not been finalized. The process annexation supporters have chosen can also be completed during 2015. Each community should be given time to determine consensus. It is unclear why the current new city and annexation proposals are being rushed when Tucker, Lakeside, and Briarcliff have been unable to reach an agreement within two years.
LaVista Park, Merry Hills and North Druid Hills only learned in November that their neighborhoods were included in the boundaries of as many as three competing new city/annexation proposal maps—City of Atlanta, LaVista Hills and Brookhaven–which jumped its original legislative barrier of I-85 in early December to annex property up to Briarcliff Rd. Information about levels of service, taxes, school districts, policing, zoning and many other matters that would change under each of these City scenarios is not clear, and many of the neighborhoods have not been formally contacted by any of the proposed municipality supporters.
Neighborhood civic leader comments:
“The majority of the residents of Merry Hills are opposed to rushing into cityhood right now. They feel that in light of the many unresolved and unclear issues, the prudent approach would be to hold off and explore the financial viability of the proposed cities as well as the other complex issues.”
Moshe Hiller, President, Merry Hills Homeowner Association.
“Based on preliminary results of a LaVista Park survey, our neighborhood’s preference is to remain a part of unincorporated DeKalb. If that will not be possible, our survey does not indicate a majority preference for a particular annexation or incorporation plan. Brookhaven’s recent and rapid annexation of Executive Park has complicated our decision and our process.”
Steve Richards, President, LaVista Park Civic Association, Dec. 18, 2014
“A recent survey indicated that 83% of our residents wanted a moratorium on cityhood and annexation in order to evaluate a myriad of complex and rapidly changing variables. Competing proposals threaten to split our neighborhood into 2 or 3 different municipalities and to separate us from the commercial properties we have always considered part of our identity. “
Martha Gross, Zoning and Land Use Chair, North Druid Hills Residents Association
“THERE IS NO RUSH TO INCORPORATE! The Leafmore Creek Park Hills Civic Association Board of Directors states that our board members and many neighborhood residents herewith express their collective concern that the new city of Lavista Hills proposed boundaries continue to change and evolve, and are still not settled! This unresolved situation makes it impossible at this point in time for our residents to make a properly informed decision on whether to vote for or against this new city. The very recent annexations of Executive Park and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta into Brookhaven- two commercial areas that were also included in the Lavista Hills map- also contribute to economic uncertainty. We believe the prudent course for our neighborhood is to defer support for any city or annexation for at least one year.”
Approved on the 17th of December, 2014 by the Leafmore Creek Park Hills Board of Directors.