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Hundreds Turn Out for Lakeside Cityhood Meeting

Under the Lakeside City Alliance's plan, residents of the Lakeside area could vote on cityhood as early as the fall of 2014.

Several hundred residents turned out for the first public meeting of the Lakeside City Alliance on Wednesday night, and the vast majority said they supported a new movement that might lead to the newest municipality in northern DeKalb County as early as fall 2014.

When the alliance's head, Northlake resident Mary Kay Woodworth, asked the packed Lakeside High School auditorium whether it supported the exploration of a new city of Lakeside, most of the audience raised their hands. Only a small group said they were opposed to the idea.

"Everything we're doing tonight, it's about a starting point," Woodworth said. "We present this to you with an open mind."

The alliance announced its existence only a week ago, and Woodworth said the group was started by her and a "few neighbors," including former state Rep. Kevin Levitas, who headed a different recent cityhood effort in Oak Grove. Woodworth is executive director of the Georgia Urban Agriculture Council and a registered lobbyist.

But after releasing a proposed city boundary that would include most of the Lakeside High area and north to I-285 and much of the commercial district in west Tucker across the perimeter highway, the group has rapidly moved to the forefront of various cityhood movements and discussions in the larger North Druid Hills-Briarcliff area.

Any city in Georgia must offer at least three services, and the alliance proposed the following for a city of Lakeside on Wednesday: public safety, zoning and enforcement and parks and recreation. Woodworth said the alliance chose those three because they were most frequently mentioned by residents as areas that could be better governed locally rather than by DeKalb County.

The goal is to design a city that would not raise residents' taxes beyond what they currently pay the county, Woodworth said. And while displeasure with inefficiency in county government has spawned most cityhood chatter in this area, Woodworth reminded the audience a new city would in no way address the county's beleaguered school system. New city school districts remain prohibited under the state's constitution, and changing that is an uphill, uncertain battle, she said.

But, Woodworth added, "no city school system could be created if a city is not formed.

"People are complaining, so let's see what we can do about that."

Many details about the city remain unanswered, and Levitas said the meeting was about recruiting residents to work with the alliance. Though residents did not speak at the meeting, Woodworth did take written questions from the audience, most of which dealt with how the proposed boundary was drawn and why certain neighborhoods or areas were included or excluded.

Several asked why the Sagamore Hills and Leafmore communities were excluded from the proposed city. Those communities have been holding their own cityhood discussions, Woodworth said, and the alliance did not want to interfere. But she said the group was open to extending the boundary of the proposed city to any areas interested. Another resident suggested including the North Druid Hills and Toco Hill commercial areas.

"We can certainly look at this," Woodworth said. "Something to discuss."

Since the path to cityhood is a roughly two-year effort, the alliance said it would like to persuade legislators to submit a "placeholder" bill for the new city by the end of this year's session. That would allow the legislature to consider it next year, and, if successful, residents would be able to vote on it in the fall of 2014, Woodworth said. That process would also include a state-mandated feasibility study by the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government that costs about $30,000 – money that would need to be raised from prospective city residents, Levitas said.

"We cannot do this alone," he said. "And we need your money. Anything you can give, we need. ... We need your time. We need your expertise. ... It's got to be a grassroots movement that starts with you."

Several residents asked why the boundary included strictly commercial districts such as the Century Center area off Clairmont Road and west Tucker across I-285. Any city needs a proper balance of commercial and residential property, Woodworth said, or the city will be funded solely on the backs of its residents.

"The boundaries are created to get that mix," Levitas said.

Woodworth also said the alliance doesn't see I-85 or I-285 as obvious demarcation lines.

But the alliance must also contend with a county-led effort to squash new cities or large annexations of commercial in DeKalb County. A bill sponsored by state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, would require new cities to conduct an study on their financial impact to the county and nearby cities. County government leaders have complained for years about the financial drain caused by new incorporations, including Dunwoody and Brookhaven.

Alliance organizers said local control over governance is a primary reason for pursuing cityhood. But Woodworth also said the alliance is not advocating cityhood, only studying the issue.

"You may not believe that, and that's your prerogative," she said. "None of us have an agenda."

The alliance will hold future meetings though no date was settled Wednesday night.

Tom Doolittle February 17, 2013 at 12:53 AM
great example of DeKalb's no capacity to plan--the Sembler proposal. DeKalb essentially asked a developer to do with its own property(ies) what DeKalb should have already done for the entire Exective Park, Druid Hills Road Corridor--AND it should have had already put a priority on getting commercial property owners to do a CID for the same area. THEN they would have been ready for any developer proposal on a single site--or assemblage. Therefore what was a call for planning became a zoning issue...and it is still happening there and Clairmont at I-85..and is the fear at Shallowford. Best proposal so far has been Emory Morsberger trying to get commercial interests to form an I-85 Corridor CID covering four intersate interchanges. That at least begins a planning process that residential interests can work with in specific locations--and we don't have to bite off any obligations. Perimeter Center and Dunwoody (two differnt jurisdictions at that time) were able to come to terms wayyyyyy before city formation. Morsbergers other corridor CID has been a miracle of partnership with neighborhoods. Both now offer a template for forms of negotiation. You can have all of that while the area studies and comes together over at least five years and waits and watches for the challenges Dunwoody (maybe works) and the Brookhaven disaster face. No doubt Brookhaven will have to merge with Dun on the north and Chamb on the east.
Da Brat Deville February 17, 2013 at 02:28 PM
Tom, Good shout-out to Emory Morsberger and the CID concept, in general. For the benefit of those unfamiliar, Community Improvement Districts (CIDs) are areas whereby business owners self-tax themselves to provide a higher level of security through increased Police patrols, streamlined permitting and engineering for major projects such as rebuilding bridge intersections over US Federal highways (Jimmy Carter/I-85), and initiating studies for long range planning, like Livable Center Initiatives (LCI). Some may confuse CIDs as replacement government for a City, or even a good substitute for DeKalb County governance, but I will explain why that may not make sense. The CID is not a political entity which means that it cannot act on behalf of non-commercial members, which just happen to be all residents living in the CID. The CID acts on behalf of and is funded solely by business members. Both a CID and a City can and do co-exist, quite well, with Norcross as an example. it took Norcross awhile to come onboard with the CID concept ans their were initial 'turf' concerns, but they do work well together now.
Da Brat Deville February 17, 2013 at 02:28 PM
As to your concerns about a major economic upheaval: Current US political gridlock favors inaction on issues of National concern like spending, revenue, and debt, which all need to be addressed to avoid major economic dislocation (the S**T hitting the fan). Georgia Grown will help, we are a rich agriculture State and can feed ourselves, if things get all survivalist. Deferring a change in local governance from DeKalb County toward incorporation based on 'what might happen to the US economy,' is a poor and passive plan. Brookhaven's tax-cap may be it's Achilles Heel, but I'd risk that over relying on DeKalb CEO form of governance for relief any day of the week.
Da Brat Deville February 17, 2013 at 02:36 PM
If Dunwoody goes broke, we all will have much larger issues. Here why: The Perimeter commercial real estate market is one of the South's busiest, most widely used by Fortune 500 corporate tenant, etc., etc. This fact is well established, and other markets (Tampa, Miami, Charlotte) still lag behind the Perimeter as THE big dog in commercial real estate. As goes Perimeter, so goes Dunwoody, the two are symbiotically and inextricably linked. Duwnoody revenues derived from the Perimeter will only setback under the most dire (S**t hits fan) scenario. I don't disagree that our current status quo is inline to meet disaster, but i do disagree that the US will follow Greece over the economic edge toward insolvency. We are better than that, or at least, so I hope.
Da Brat Deville February 17, 2013 at 02:48 PM
Brookhaven has a tax cap, but has few expenses right now. They have plenty of challenges to keep these expenses below the revenue cap, but I think that is doable, even in dire circumstances. The people in charge, at least for the first five years, actually believe in what they are doing and will be responsible. After enough time passes, every institution faces challenges of staying efficient, focused, and enthused. DeKalb's reliance on Federal Funding as a Sanctuary County is being challenged by Gov. Deal. Read that here: http://www.ajc.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/georgia-to-feds-send-fewer-foreign-refugees-here/nWPDj/ This is a quite behind the scenes battle taking place right now. Ask the Lakeside area Commish about this. Oh wait, you'll have to get past the Praetorian Guard and he won't allow such heresy to reach the ears of the Queen of the TWENTY-TWO YEAR REIGN. How does one make a lifetime career as public commissioner?
Tom Doolittle February 17, 2013 at 03:00 PM
Absolutely Brat: That's why my recommendation is to go slow, NOT "do nothing"--incorporation proponents have difficulty distiguishing due to a certain "enthusiasm" (its almost religion). I'll be writing for a parallel plan to the Vinson Inst normal rosey scenarios. Since they (and political climate) advocate under a best case scenario, I'll advocate for one based on worst case. It will show that our city may be a city in form, but will be almost unrecognizable to a 20th Century lifestyle. It'll work, but jobs, propoerty values, income levels, sources of supplies and goods--all will be different and scaled back. So in fact, the closer people are to their govt the better, but just have a set plan to shift gears and go in with a plan and eyes open. To do this, we need legislative parameters (and rules) which force responsibility in this regard 1. Require counties to devolve services (all services except regional tie-ins)--and the entire county becomes a bunch of contiguous cities--unless the folks in unincorporated areas are OK with dirt roads and few services. (2) the legislature will require more responsible planning and decision making from local commuities that extablish parameters for local leadership, probably a step-wise 10 year plan (time for county devolution and town evolution). Later--I have to find my car that was stolen yesterday. Sky bl 1994 Accord EX with orange 'V" (Virginia), LP stickers and Lakeside magnet--for anyone reading.
Da Brat Deville February 17, 2013 at 03:09 PM
Regret to hear about your vehicle. Hope it is not used in a smash and grab or another crime, typical of the DeKalb gang MO.
HamBurger February 17, 2013 at 03:44 PM
Just curious, does anyone know how many strip clubs are located in DeKalb? How many have opened in the past twenty years? Special hamburger anyone?
HamBurger February 17, 2013 at 04:17 PM
“Gonna be interesting and we outa take at least 5 years to watch what happens.” Brookhaven did not do this. Voters were sold a city that was not completely thought out and is being run primarily by a group of people, although affiliated with city creation for several years, that have no practical understanding of government, how it works, and the consequences of their actions. As time goes by, many of the volunteer positions associated with running a city are filled with folks heavily involved in the cityhood effort. Many of these folks were extremely abrasive towards anyone that dared to question the need for a city. Yet, they are appointed by their city crony Mayor Davis. All of this has lead to further divisiveness in what you may think is a wonderful new city. If you really want a new city, take your time, make certain the reasons for cityhood are sound, get everyone on board, verify there is no trickanology with your Vinson study, and give it a whirl. But, at the end of the day, why would anyone want to vote another layer of government on themselves instead of cleaning up what they have? And, your school system? You are STILL in DeKalb! Please pass the yellow mustard!
HamBurger February 17, 2013 at 04:27 PM
Mr. Da Brat, agreed about the tax cap, but some are more concerned about the city budget. We will know by year three about the extent of how trickanology played a role in the Vinson Sales Tool used by C$ND and Brookhaven Yes. Please pass the yellow mustard!
Rhea A Johnson Jr February 17, 2013 at 09:07 PM
Rhea A Johnson Jr Tom: Thief with poor taste in autos did you a favor. Probably would not have happened if we were in a city. Car worth less than $1500 stolen in Georgia only carries misdemeanor penalty.
bulldogger February 17, 2013 at 11:55 PM
Hi, Cheryl Miller, Lakeside's graduation rates have already dropped below that of Tucker and Redan High Schools. WHY????????????? have they???????????
Jack of Kings February 18, 2013 at 12:28 AM
Looks like HamBurger will not become a "balanced journalist" anytime soon. Well, maybe on MSNBC.
Lou February 18, 2013 at 12:52 AM
So those of us who are now "Atlanta, Georgia 30345" would then be "Lakeside, Georgia 30345"? I'm not talking about a zip code change. I'm talking about the city name changing. Yes, I know I don't live in the City of Atlanta but I've always lived in Atlanta in DeKalb. So I'm still seeking proof that we would not lose our Atlanta address, not that we would not lose our current zip code.
HamBurger February 18, 2013 at 05:08 PM
Mr. Phil, please share with us all of the great things that are happening in Brookhaven. Also, tell us about the 45% of the folks that actually took the time to vote on cityhood that now feel neutered by C$ND and Brookhaven Yes. You know, their prime supporters are now running this city, right? By now I guess everyone knows district one will forever rule this city. Not everyone is enthralled with their new cities. Here is an example for you: http://tinyurl.com/aoamr3r The 2008 and 2009 archives may be of interest to folks south of I-85 interested in learning more about Dunwoody’s road to cityhood. Special hamburger and a Cheerwine?
don Gabacho February 18, 2013 at 05:19 PM
"Absurd idea! no real city center, no heart and soul or business district, this is thinly disguised racism."----Jeep Hook It is the beginning of 'corporatist' governace for Lakeside.
don Gabacho February 18, 2013 at 05:28 PM
"Have someone send you or send yourself a letter and write any city you want in the city field."---Randy Rand Better yet, send a certified package to the USDOJ entiltled "MxGov Registering Voters for US elections." And then see if you get a notice of the registered mail recieved. At least for 30319 (in Brookhaven).
don Gabacho February 18, 2013 at 05:56 PM
"Better locally focused zoning control is an important issue."---Randy Rand See Brookhaven Reporter's "Zoning boards on the way" of Feb 8: "City Council voted to adopt the zoning code of DeKalb County, so the process will be almost exactly the same as it is currently in DeKalb County. The main diffference, said Councilwoman Rebecca Chase Williams, is that Broohaven will ***not*** have a community council..." Why? Because "Zoning was a big reason people voted for cityhood, wanting to have more control of zoning...Williams said. BTW, Williams was also a member of the so-called "citizens committee" (Citizens for North DeKalb along with a state congressman) initiating the proposal for the new City of Brookhaven.
don Gabacho February 18, 2013 at 06:15 PM
I'm curious about what you mean by "open minded." ----Brett "It (the elimination of "an advisory board [of citizens] called community counsil hears applications before they advance to the [in Brookhvens' case: appointed planning commission])" eliminates an entire month in the zoning process..."---Rebecca Chase Williams; former member of Citizens for North DeKalb and now Councilwoman for the City of Brookhaven.
don Gabacho February 18, 2013 at 06:20 PM
"...what do you and your neighbors value as a complete tapestry of quality of life that you think you can find somewhere else?"---Brett Given the now City of Brookhaven, and being resident to it, I, for one, had been thinking Lakeside. No longer.
don Gabacho February 18, 2013 at 10:08 PM
"...but I'm not persuaded that so-called "local control" can fix them..."----Sharon Strange Stepler Or even hear about them? RE: "Public hearings" of zoning applications in the City of Brookhaven, now without a "community council," and instead an appointed "planning commission" only: "But its our intent for the public to be notified..."---City of Brookhaven Counsilwoman, Rebecca Chase Williams In other words: We'll let you know.
Tom Doolittle February 19, 2013 at 05:04 AM
Right again Brat: I've been told it may have been stolen for that. However, ti doesn't quite add up, since you can't see my car from the street where its parked and we haven't had too many gang bangers on my streets watching me drive in and out. Nope--this was done by someone who knows me, knows my car and knows my habits (except the one where I don't keep any gas in it). Of course, my 80 year old neighbors could be running scout for a gang and letting them know what kind of cars are here. This really smells--I'm pretty sure Rhea had something to do with it. He still thinks I'm arguing against cities and he seems real sure that cars aren't stolen in cities.
Tom Doolittle February 19, 2013 at 05:08 AM
Hey Brat: We definitel y need a side thread on the Queen. People need to know how things really work on this one. Seems like a real unique story.
Nee Nee Calderone February 19, 2013 at 06:09 PM
The situation described by the author of The Other Dunwoody is noteworthy solely because most social action is predicated by a tragedy. Take the words Dunwoody and DeKalb out of the story and insert 9/11 and Homeland Security, and you'll see my point. The fellow who voluntarily left the meeting is angry and frustrated. The official was angry and righteous. Good public policy is derived from action, and that is not always pretty. Try getting any action in the Maloof Building by pulling a stunt like that and you might find yourself ensconced in the Thunderdome, off Memorial Drive. Point is, citizens have a much closer voice to governance in a City. And it will never be perfect. The key is spirited, civil debate, rigorous and vigilant public scrutiny, and the desire to improve Brookhaven. Being a constant naysayer is not a good thing, being a constant naysayer without any positive contribution makes one an impotent gadfly.
HamBurger February 20, 2013 at 01:41 AM
Mr. Tom, you do not make any sense. And, your experience in DeKalb is a far cry from the example in Dunwoody. Regardless, enjoy your new city. Please pass the yellow mustard!
Cheryl Miller February 20, 2013 at 07:15 AM
2011 Graduation Rates: DeKalb School of the Arts: 96.83 Arabia Mountain: 85.71 Chamblee Charter HS: 81.67 Dunwoody HS: 80.84 Stephenson HS: 79.21 Redan HS: 78.79 Miller Grove HS: 74.31 Stone Mountain HS: 72.88 Tucker HS: 72.42 Southwest DeKalb HS: 66.73 Columbia HS: 66.57 **Lakeside HS: 62.79** Druid Hills HS: 62.13 as reported in the AJC and the DeKalb School Watch Two blog: http://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/dekalbs-graduation-rate-under-the-new-state-formula-58-65/
Tom Doolittle February 21, 2013 at 02:59 AM
The 2011 grad rates were the first year anyone who didn't graduate in four years was not counted as a graduation. This of course is meaningless, unless you consider tough schools don't pass unqualified students. As a double whammy for Lakeside, if anyone left the school when their family moved away, they were consideed a dropout. 2012-13 if Lakeside follows up and finds the destination school, the student is not a dropout. You'll note that the two bottom schools have very high hispanic populations, known for "in and outs". Two zones with high mobility rates (that the official term).
Carrie Redwine February 21, 2013 at 04:51 PM
What the area needs more than anything is some decent GREEN SPACE! The GA Urban Agriculture Council and their active lobbyists should focus on tearing down the all-you-can-eat Chinese Buffet on Northlake Parkway that blocks beautiful North Lake from view, and turn the entire area into a lakeside park - and also we obviously need a makeover of Northlake Mall which looks very run down.
Carrie Redwine February 21, 2013 at 05:02 PM
Lou I agree with you! If I had wanted to live in the suburbs and be associated with a sub-city I would not have moved to ATLANTA! (and no you can not receive mail addressed "Atlanta" if you live in Decatur, Stone Mountain, Tucker, Roswell, Lilburn, Avondale Estates or any other metro sub-city)
Carrie Redwine February 21, 2013 at 05:06 PM
Yes!!!!!

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