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Decatur Commission OK's Annexation

With no referendum likely, the annexation issue moves to the General Assembly and faces an uncertain reception.

The Decatur City Commission voted Monday night to move ahead with annexing two heavily commercial areas, despite opposition from business owners and residents who might be brought into the city.

The city will next ask the DeKalb County legislative delegation to pass a bill in the upcoming General Assembly authorizing the annexation.

The city attorney has said no referendum is necessary because so few people reside in the targeted areas.

Commissioner Patti Garrrett noted that assage on the state level is not a certainty, saying "If we vote today to annex, that doesn't mean it will happen." Mayor Bill Floyd said that the General Assembly might still require the city to hold a referendum.

The meeting started at 7:30 p.m. but the commission didn't take up annexation--the most contentious issue of the year--until 9:45 p.m. because of several long rezoning discussions. The meeting ended at 11:10 p.m.

Residents and business owners in unincorporated DeKalb spoke out against the annexation

Doug Robinson, owner of Eagle Eye Book Shop, said annexation would push up his property taxes 30 percent. "In dollars and cents this is about $2,400 a year," he said. "I might have to lay off one of my part-time book sellers."

Herb Chereck, owner of the Decatur Package Store on Clairmont Road, said the annexation process was "very non-Decatur like."

"I could accept a referendum, but to have it thrown upon us, I don't think that's appropriate," he said.

The last annexation bill the DeKalb delegation handled took a long time. Avondale Estates and Decatur annexed land between the two cities by legislation last summer, but only after several failed efforts over the years.

City Commissioner Jim Baskett said that with opposition from DeKalb County and lack of will in the legislature, "I think most of this is an exercise in a futilty."

If the annexation does go through, Decatur will increase its commercial tax base.

A report on the city's webpage said the two areas would require about $750,000 per year in city services and produce about $812,000 in annual revenue.

That wasn't an acceptable motive for Judy Parris, a resident of unincorporated DeKalb resident, who said it was not morally right for the city to grab DeKalb's commercial areas.

"It's impossible for me to view this as anything other than greed ... and self interest," she said. "I don't see how you feel entitled to this that."

Floyd testily responded to these comments, saying "We don't do anything out of greed."

The annexation concentrated on commercial areas, he said, because the city school system can't handle an influx of new students, not because residential areas produce less property taxes than commercial areas.

Annexation has been talked about for decades, but Floyd put it back on the table last spring during his State of the City speech.

The city staff went to work and identified six areas that might be worth annexing, including the Publix-anchored Emory Commons Shopping Center, Suburban Plaza shopping Center. The city estimated .

The city school system complained that a lot of new students would stress out the system, already the fastest growing in the state. People outside the city complained about the prospect of paying higher taxes.

Two weeks ago, City Manager Peggy Merriss recommended most of the residential areas be dropped from consideration, thus reducing most public opposition from within the city.

She recommended the city only annex the two shopping centers and surrounding neighborhoods with about 500 residents with about 45 age 16 and under.

Down the road, Merriss said, the city should work with the children's home to determine their feelings about annexation and annex a handful of tracts in Midway Woods becasue those residents want to join the city. 

The vote on the area on the northwest corner of the city limits was 4-0, with Fred Boykin recusing himself because he owns the bike shop that will be annexed.

The vote was 4-1 on annexing the Suburban Plaza area, with Boykin voting no. "It's very close to me," he said.

The city has put together information about the annexation process on the city webpage.

Here are some previous Patch stories about annexation.

  • Decatur taxes bashed at annexation hearing.
  • Report says annexation would swell school system attendance.
  • Decatur school system starts annexation blog.
  • Decatur planning to annex.
  • Mayor says the city should annex Suburban Plaza.
  • .
  • Could a 'City of DeKalb' affect annexation timetable?
Ralph Ellis December 18, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Readers, sorry my reporting created some confusion. I posted a story Monday night about the meeting that omitted the Fred Boykin information. I updated the story about 30 minutes later to include that, plus some other info. So you're both right!
Veronica December 18, 2012 at 07:42 PM
In this uncertain time in Dekalb County where we are again facing the on-going saga of School Board issues (see below) and with the evolving discussions of annexation into a City of Dekalb, where I am quite certain there will be an increase in taxes and no change in our level of services, I just can not understand why the initial identified residents were not excited about the potential of being annexed into the fantastic and stable City of Decatur. I am saddened that we are not part of this final recommended plan and am upset that instead of our neighborhood becoming more cohesive we will now have even more lines and boundaries drawn around us. This makes it so difficult to have any meaningful participation in any Dekalb County decision making proposed (like if our local school will be closed and where they will shuttle our children). Today (12/17) members of the DeKalb County Board of Education, along with the Superintendent and Senior Team, met with AdvancED and Dr. Mark Elgart, President and CEO of AdvancED. The Special Review Team Report from the October 17-19, 2012 visit. As a result, the District is now being placed on Accredited-Probation until December 31, 2013. At Monday's conference, Elgart warned that if the school district doesn't take "proactive action" to place students' needs above those of board members, the system's loss of accreditation is "imminent."
Tom December 18, 2012 at 10:18 PM
The Decatur Mayor & Commissioners are just like Obama and the Democrats. They take citizens money and blow it on services that are not needed in order to strengthen their power. Decatur (and America) needs LESS Government...not more.
wiggedout December 18, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Veronica, instead of being such a Debbie Downer, why don't you start petitioning the governor's office to bag the DeKalb Board of Education? He can, you know. Why don't you attend a school board meeting and take a stand? DeKalb needs to keep its tax base (BTW, the City of DeKalb issue is not one of annexation), and there's nothing wrong with those commercial properties that the City of Decatur is targeting (what's the status of the Avondale piece that was annexed? Oh -- that's right. The City of Decatur has done NOTHING with it!). Imagine things costing more in these commercial properties because they're supporting a school system that can simply take what it wants. Where does it stop? When does the City of Decatur get pinged for trying to be Buckhead of the East Side?
Henry Batten December 19, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Please stay on topic........

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