DeKalb County, GA, February 19, 2016 – by Trey Benton – Hundreds attended a Town Hall Meeting Thursday evening to discuss the proposed Chamblee Annexation, hear from their State Legislators about the current Legislative Session and a Senate Committee Study on Annexation, DeAnnexation and Municipal Incorporation.
State Reps Scott Holcomb, Mary Margaret Oliver, Michele Henson and Senator Elena Parent updated the audience on the progress of several Bills and Legislation, such as the Rape Kit Bill, A Promise Kept, Legislation to rework the DeKalb BOC and abolish the CEO position, a Bill addressing Legacy Pensions, and Bills that would codify some areas of Municipal Incorporation.
Ben Shackleford, leader of the Chamblee annexation advocacy group Citizens for Cityhood, spoke to the audience and explained the impetus behind his group’s efforts and touched on why they feel annexation into Chamblee would be best for citizens in an area that strongly supported the failed LaVista Hills Cityhood effort. He said service delivery is the most important driving factor behind their efforts.
Marjorie Snook with DeKalb Strong, a group that led efforts against the LaVista Hills Cityhood effort, spoke to the crowd and gave an opposing viewpoint. Snook and her group are against the Chamblee annexation for reasons such as higher taxes, splitting up neighborhoods, splitting school districts and the lack of a real feasibility study done by a qualified third party academic institution.
It was hard to tell which audience members where from the proposed annexation area, who was from the current City of Chamblee and who were persons just interested in what is going on in areas near their homes, as it was truly a mixed bag. A show of hands for persons for the annexation and against the annexation yielded the same approximate number. Those in the audience who raised their hands as being undecided on the issue amounted to about 15% of the total audience.
Persons speaking in favor of annexation into Chamblee said they are impressed with improvements they see happening in Chamblee as well as the sense of community the current City of 29,000 has. They said they would like to have the same levels of service Chamblee residents receive – services they see as sorely lacking coming from DeKalb County – as well as an efficiently run local Government.
Opponents of the annexation who spoke said it’s not fair that current Chamblee residents will have no vote in the matter, a matter they say is a complete game changer for them and for their City. They say expanding the City will lead to higher taxes, a degradation of service delivery – which they believe Chamblee still hasn’t been able to deliver equally throughout the City as a result of two other annexations.
The biggest issue for Chamblee residents who spoke Thursday evening was the same issue that was the most talked about at two other meetings The Post has attended – the speed at which this annexation effort is traveling.
Many who spoke at all of the meetings have said they only learned what is going here on a matter of days ago. Another top concern is why Chamblee is not doing a real feasibility study from a third party instead of relying on their own City Staff to decide whether the annexation is feasible and a good decision.
Proponents also fear that if they do not press forward swiftly and annex into Chamblee, nearby commercial areas including Northlake Mall, would be sucked-in to another municipality or incorporation effort, leaving them unappealing to future Cityhood or annexation efforts.
Opponents fear that with the recent sale of Northlake Mall – the most significant commercial area in the proposed map – its future is uncertain and relying on its tax revenue to offset service delivery costs to 35,000 new Chamblee residents, at this point, would be purely speculative and unwise.
Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson closed out the meeting with comments to the crowd about some of the good things that are going on in Chamblee and how thankful he is to be a Chamblee resident.
The City of Chamblee has not finished their own internal feasibility study at this point. They said Tuesday it could be 10 to 14 days.
More in the video attached to this story.