Chamblee, GA, February 17, 2017 – by Larry Felton Johnson for The Post – At a Thursday evening Work Session of the Chamblee City Council, annexation spokesperson John Oselette, who represents a group of 150-200 residents in unincorporated DeKalb County who are seeking annexation into Chamblee, explained the area comprises the four voting precincts who voted to incorporate by a 63% margin during the failed referendum to form the city of LaVista Hills. He explained the benefits of annexation to the residents of his area would include more localized and responsive government, particularly regarding vital services such as police, zoning, permitting, licensing, and economic development. He also said being part of Chamblee would provide a “sense of place and community” for residents, and make the area part of a diverse and vibrant city.
After Oselette’s presentation, the mayor and city council questioned him about details of his group’s proposal. Mayor Eric Clarkson said the annexation would seem to create another unincorporated island bounded by Chamblee, Doraville, Tucker, and the Gwinnett County border.
When questioned by Councilman Tom Hogan on what time frame supporters of annexation were proposing, Oselette said his group would like the annexation to be on this year’s November ballot. He said the reason for putting it on the ballot so soon, is that the City of Tucker has been approaching the commercial property owners in the area, proposing annexation into Tucker.
Several other councilmembers expressed concern about the time frame, including John Mesa, who said, “You’re saying all the right things, that you’re wanting to engage our community, and you want to have studies done, and all that, but I think you’re ignoring the calendar. You can’t do all of that in the time frame … to get it on this year’s ballot … I just don’t see you having all these meetings and convincing our city’s current citizens in this time frame.”
State Representative Scott Holcomb (D-81), whose district includes Chamblee, was asked to speak about the feasibility of the time frame proposed by Oselette’s group. He agreed the timing to get the referendum on November’s ballot is problematic.
Outside the meeting room, two Chamblee residents expressed their opinion of the annexation request.
“I understand the situation they’re in … I understand the desire to be in a city,” explained Elmer Veith, who had been involved in a successful effort to annex his community into the city. “I just feel they keep going about it in a very awkward way. I understand their concern about the commercial property. I fully understand what the pain is of having another city try to grab your commercial real estate. But you have to have a plan, you have to follow through, and you have to work on it.”
Veith said this proposed annexation is coming in at the last minute, when the General Assembly has already been in session for more than two weeks. “If you want to be taken seriously you don’t come in like that,” Veith added.
Chamblee resident Bill Lowe told The Post, “They really should have started this six months ago. The most important thing for them to do right now, is secure the borders, and get a hiatus on any further annexations [by Tucker]. That way they can start working on it now.” Lowe said the group should get a handshake agreement with Tucker to put further annexations in the Northlake area on hold for now.
When asked why supporters of annexation into Chamblee had not canvassed the commercial property owners in the area to get their support prior to seeking the support of the city council, Oselette said, “The process started late, because the original organizers of LaVista Hills weren’t really interested in delving back into the work involved in getting this done.”
Coming off the heels of the cityhood initiative, Oselette said there wasn’t a lead organizer “to get this thing started until we started to see and hear about the annexation [of commercial property] into Tucker. Then we realized we had to get something started.” He said if the effort had started six months earlier, approaching the commercial property owners would probably have been their first step.
Asked for comment after the discussion, Rep. Holcomb said, “I appreciated having the opportunity to speak. As Mayor Clarkson and members of the City Council noted, we need to hear what people think–both current Chamblee residents and those in the proposed annexation area. That dialogue has just begun.”
The area under consideration is bordered by I-85 to the west, Shallowford Road to the south, and I-285 to the east and north. It also includes a small area to the west of I-85 added to avoid creating an unincorporated island between Chamblee and Doraville. (State legislation enabling annexation requires that no islands of unincorporated area surrounded by existing cities be created by the annexation).
This is what was presented to Councilmembers by John Oselette during the February 16, 2017 City Council Work Session. Much more in the video attached to this Post.