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Next Steps for Cityhood? Clear as Mud for the Moment

Legislators push groups to talk, plan public hearing for citizen input after Legislature already in session.

Lakeside City Alliance's Mary Kay Woodworth gives presentation as City of Briarcliff's Allen Venet (right) listens.
Lakeside City Alliance's Mary Kay Woodworth gives presentation as City of Briarcliff's Allen Venet (right) listens.
Two things were clear Thursday after a four-hour "DeKalb Day" meeting between the county legislative delegation and the groups proposing new cities.

  • Many in the delegation were pressing the three groups with conflicting maps -- Lakeside, Briarcliff, and Tucker -- to sit down, either with a mediator or without, to work out differences in their maps.
  • The delegation is working on scheduling a public hearing with the cityhood groups, delegation, groups, county commissioners and interim DeKalb CEO Lee May in the "next week or so" to have "citizen input" on the process. That hearing would presumably come after the Legislature is already at work next week.

While all sides committed to some kind of follow-up, it was not clear who would be leading the effort to get the sides together. "We will be interested in any negotiated agreement among the parties," delegation chairman Rep. Howard Mosby said at the meeting's end.

These two developments came the day after May met with representatives from the three groups. May held the meeting as he was unable to attend today's session because of a death in his family.

According to Lakeside and Briarcliff reps attending that meeting, May ultimately pushed for a one-year moratorium on new cities and an impact study commission. The results of that meeting were open to interpretation.

State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver asked Lakeside City Alliance (LCA) Chairman Mary Kay Woodworth if it was true that Lakeside was strongest against the idea. Woodworth disagreed with that assessment, saying she was not in a position to agree to anything at the meeting without the approval of the LCA board.

LCA statements, including a recent op-ed piece in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, have said that any moves to delay on a new city were not acceptable and simply stalling the process. The City of Briarcliff Initiative (COBI) in the past has made similar statements.

During the session at the Paul D. Coverdell Building at the state Capitol, legislators invited COBI, LCA, Stonecrest City Alliance (SCA) and Tucker 2014 to give presentations and answer questions. The Briarcliff, Lakeside and Tucker presentations shed little new information that hasn't been shared in community meetings or on their websites.

However, the question-and answer period led to some interesting points or discussions. In the interest of article length, Patch will be following up with a closer look at some of these points and others. Some highlights:

Can your city remain economically viable without the Northlake Mall area? Presenters for all three cities said yes. However, Lakeside and Tucker both said the area should be in their cities because it is part of their "community of interest." Tucker's Frank Auman said most businesses in the area see themselves as part of Tucker and a "preponderance" of them come to Tucker Business Association meetings. COBI President Allen Venet was not conceding the area, but said "I wish Northlake was outside of 285." 

Annexation: State Rep. Karla Drenner asked Venet what she should tell officials in cities she represents as Briarcliff's borders give them an inability to grow. Venet, when asked, said COBI had not talked with those cities before drawing their map. However, he said that there was room for compromise. He said COBI had met with Decatur's mayor and city manager this week. "We are certainly in favor of annexation," he said, but not "cherry picking," in which cities only pursue commercial property and not residential areas. Venet repeatedly stressed that Briarcliff's boundaries were designed to be "inclusive," and give everyone the right to vote on cityhood.

Three new cities? LCA Co-Chairman Kevin Levitas said at one point, when asked, that there is enough territory for all three cities to be created. 

Convention bureaus? All three city proposals include provisions for their own convention bureaus, which is required in order to collect a hotel-motel tax.

Funding DeKalb police pensions? Several legislators raised the issue of new cities not contributing to the pension plans or health benefits of retired officers who protected their areas. COBI President Allen Venet said state law needs to be changed to prevent that from happening. Woodworth said LCA would not oppose the Legislature writing something into Lakeside's charter. Tucker's Auman said it was a moot point as Tucker would still be patrolled by DeKalb Police.

SCA President Jason Lary's presentation was much shorter than the others as Stonecrest's feasibility study found a $15 million shortfall in their original proposal for a city of 82,000. That proposal is being reworked for the 2015 Legislative session, working with UGA's Carl Vinson Institute of Government, with a smaller city of 48,000.

Lary made an impassioned plea for help on economic development in southeast DeKalb, which he said has been hit hard by declining home prices. "Quite frankly, I'm envious of the other three (cityhood groups). They have the opportunity to see if they are viable rather than 'Are you viable?' "

"We're not done. That would be giving up on DeKalb County. This is about holding our own in our own region," Lary said.

What do you think the cityhood groups should do? Tell us in the comments below.
Carrie Redwine January 10, 2014 at 11:52 AM
3 cities is crazy and no one wants that - do we? City of Briarcliff makes so much more sense, and Tucker needs to be TUCKER. No one ever mentioned a City of Northlake which is already a recognized name for the "area". The city planning that occurred when Northlake Mall was built and the surrounding businesses were "placed" was a travesty. The Mall needs a total facelift, new signage, resurfaced lots, and the all-you-can-eat Chinese place & parking lot needs to be leveled and green space on North Lake created for the entire community to enjoy. North Lake - the greatest asset of the area is HIDDEN! Hopefully whichever city takes over Northlake these issues will be addressed. Can't you picture feeding the geese with your kids down at Northlake Park??
RandyRand January 10, 2014 at 11:55 AM
Ask yourself, as apparently Roberto has, why would a Republican legislative majority ever disallow a Republican sponsored and the likely Republican leaning population of LCA to vote on self determination? Exactly what kind fatigue would prohibit a vote to pass the buck down the line for decision? The idea that “they are too stupid to know what is good for themselves” or “we legislators know what is best” seems to reside firmly in the minds of Democrats and much less so in the minds of Republicans.
RandyRand January 10, 2014 at 12:04 PM
Furthermore, ask yourself this, if the current legislature or Governor was soooo fatigued by cityhood movements, why would they vote to approve a repeat vote for the previously no vote on the DECA’s annexation. The legislative actions and pro cityhood trend simply don’t support speculation of a pull back of any kind!
Tom Doolittle January 10, 2014 at 12:30 PM
RandyRan: My crystal ball is better than yours. I'm coming over to your house with $100 check, you write one too. We put it in escrow with Cheryl Miller and wait for the Govt Affairs Comm decision. They not only won't go forward, but they won't defer to a moratorium bill either. It'll be a "DeKalb Fatigue--get outta here--don't come back until we legislators do some real statewide business" decision.
Ralph January 10, 2014 at 12:44 PM
In an ideal world the maps would not have been drawn to overlap. Now that they do, the parties should sit down and negotiate so redraw so there is no overlap. If they don't, I doubt if the legislature will consider either proposed city
Tom Doolittle January 10, 2014 at 01:02 PM
The legislature isn't going to do this whether these "groups" get together or not. Realize that puts us on a 3-year+ time frame-- Time for a more deliberative process which puts the greater issue of governance in general in the hands of neighborhood representatives. Back away from the proponent 501's and thank them for getting the ball rolling.
RandyRand January 10, 2014 at 01:03 PM
Lets gamble a little Swim instruction vs Tennis instruction that way we can enjoy Our club and leave CM out of our speculation deal!
RandyRand January 10, 2014 at 01:05 PM
The one thing the Republican majority knows for sure is that Dekalb County is one screwed up mess. Under their watch these State Republican folks have demonstrated that they will act to protect the citizenry from the existing fiasco(s) and the general county wide status quo tendencies. The State Republicans will certainly assert prescriptive leadership for Dekalb in 2014. Approving the LCA bill is the least invasive prescriptive option they will encounter this term as Tucker’s proposed effort represents nothing more than a weak move toward a Home Owners Association version of cityhood and COBI represents a border encroaching “mini me” version of the mess existing today.
rwf January 10, 2014 at 01:06 PM
OK, Tom, here's my crystal ball. Let's say you're right and the Governmental Affairs Committee passes on their responsibility to seriously consider these bills. Then, given the DeKalb delegations overwhelmingly positive response to the Tucker proposal yesterday, DeKalb takes up the Tucker bill, as is, as Local Legislation, and passes it unanimously. (Well, Taylor probably votes against it.) Then St. Francis of Dunwoody is faced with a conundrum - either support a Democrat bill, because that's 'his thang' and any city is better than no city, or marshal the Republican lemmings to oppose the bill in a childish fit of pique because the Republican controlled committee didn't give him what he wanted. Now, that's entertainment!
Enuff Govt Already January 10, 2014 at 01:14 PM
If there is any DeKalb biz in the legislature I expect it will be decision time for theD'wdy cabal; battle for a sch system or battle for a sister city. My money is they battle for their school system. I get the impression they are getting some serious negative feed back on the B'khvn rollout. Rep Jacobs had another less than positive comment about any of the cityhood proposals moving forward in the AJC. Also a poster on dunwoodyfarmerbob.com ( Comissioner Boyer's chief of staff's personal blog) was lamenting the backlash for the north DeKalb politicians.
Tom Doolittle January 10, 2014 at 01:55 PM
Interesting about Tucker. In the editorial that finally was published in hard copy today, I definitely appreciated the leader's descriptions of all of the characteristics of typical cities that already exist in Tucker (or "about" Tucker anyway). It would be great if all new cityhood areas had these--including most of those already formed.
Longerthanu January 10, 2014 at 02:24 PM
It would be nice, Tom, but we are victims of urban sprawl in that regard. Instead of city centers, we got shopping centers and cul-de-sacs.
Lou January 10, 2014 at 02:29 PM
I cannot understand the rationale the Tucker people have for saying Northlake Mall should be part of Tucker. I have lived in this area, a couple of miles from the mall, since before it opened. Two facts rule Tucker's claims out: 1. The mall is INSIDE the perimeter, Tucker is outside 2. the address of the mall is ATLANTA, GA 30345 Look it up.
Tom Doolittle January 10, 2014 at 04:46 PM
Yes Longer--begging the question as to what ends these places will have to go to to form the requisite elements to be successful. How tortured will the process be--and how expensive, where new infrastructure will be required to form their Main Streets--and roads to become streets.
Tom Doolittle January 10, 2014 at 04:59 PM
Enuf Guv: I agree completely with the "either or" assessment you make above. The conclusion not as clear cut because probability of passage of the school law is much lower than another city (I say the next city is a 50/50 vote in the legislature going to referendum, the tough decision is with the Govt Affairs Comm).
Tom Doolittle January 10, 2014 at 05:18 PM
Rfw: Those are interesting outcomes for Sen Millar. I do want to emphasize that I never said the Govt Affiars Comm wouldn't seriously consider the bills. I indirectly said the opposite--they won't use a moratorium to change the process.
Ralph January 10, 2014 at 05:33 PM
The legislature isn't going to do this whether these "groups" get together or not Tom - then what did you mean by "this"?
HamBurger January 10, 2014 at 05:34 PM
OK, stupid question time. What one budget item in all existing DeKalb cities as well as any new cities created is subject to negative fluctuation depending on just how many cities are created? And, does this revised budget item, depending on how many cities are created, potentially place existing cities and new cities Vinson projections in the red? Plus, does anyone have a spreadsheet created showing the various budget impacting scenarios? Amazingly, and amusingly, why aren’t all of y’all’s future mayors (and you folks know just who they will be) talking about this? And, are you folks concerned bout this? Special hamburger and a Cheerwine anyone?
Longerthanu January 10, 2014 at 05:40 PM
Maybe we don't need Main Streets. We all drive cars -- not buggies. We'll go to the same places we do now, cities or not. With the right leadership, we might get some nice, new places nearby to go.
Enuff Govt Already January 10, 2014 at 05:43 PM
Hamburger, are you referring to HOST?
Longerthanu January 10, 2014 at 07:23 PM
Not enough going on over at the Brookhaven Patch?
HamBurger January 10, 2014 at 07:53 PM
Mr. longer, any new city in DeKalb County impacts all citizens of DeKalb. Especially, if you own a bunch of property in these areas. Would you deprive me of my right to question what impacts my properties? If not, please remove me from your list of forced contributors and carry on without me. Now, can you answer my question? Special hamburger and a Cheerwine anyone while we wait?
Longerthanu January 10, 2014 at 08:07 PM
No wonder they ran you off over there, Ms. Hammy. Your attitude is rancid.
HamBurger January 10, 2014 at 08:45 PM
Mr. longer, you, sir, are representative of a group of narrow minded folks that seek more government instead of organizing for making changes to what you have. You just might regret your dream and what it brings to our region as two northern cities are beginning to do. Next, instead of making necessary adjustments to our current national government, do you want to create another country? This is not Texas, you know? And, regarding Brookhaven, is everything going along swimmingly wonderful? NOT! But, your misguided political blinders do indeed blind you so, you cannot see just what is going on. Now, can you answer my question relating to DeKalb County, new cities and potential budget flaws? Special hamburger and a Cheerwine anyone while we wait?
Tom Doolittle January 10, 2014 at 09:17 PM
Longer: When we were conducting our first charette for what later became Northlake Communiity Alliance, the consultant asked one clarifying question: why not arrange your daily living the way you like to vacation--if you have the choice. Why is the preferred design of new town centers with a Main Street and a grid? Clearly people would rather start cities with these arrangements than not. Clearly people would rather have a center of their city than not. BTW--cars WILL go the same route horse and buggy.
Longerthanu January 10, 2014 at 09:54 PM
Ah, consultants. They are the extension of "Those who can, do. Those who can't do, teach." Those who can't teach, consult. The gasoline engine will eventually go the way of the horse and buggy (but not for a very long time). Cars won't-- at least not until we can all travel by jetpack. You can't take a train-- or any mass transit-- everywhere you want to go.
Longerthanu January 10, 2014 at 09:59 PM
Hammy hog, you have no clue who I am, what group I belong to, or what my dreams might be, so it's best not to even go there until you have done your homework. Don't you have some meat to beat for those "special hamburgers?"
HamBurger January 10, 2014 at 10:10 PM
Mr. longer, thank you for addressing my question and for being such a stand-up citizen and gentleman. And, I know you well. Special hamburger and a Cheerwine anyone?
Longerthanu January 10, 2014 at 11:02 PM
I assure you ham hands, you don't know me at all. Sorry you got kicked out of your playground. Perhaps you'll find a more receptive crowd over at the Tucker Patch. Cheryl has been in fine form lately.
HamBurger January 11, 2014 at 09:51 AM
Mr. Longer, OK, as you believe. ;) Please pass the yellow mustard!

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