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Cityhood on tap for the BriarPatch? Take your time, please

The author attended a meeting held by the 501c-3 Stand Up DeKalb this week, which dealt with the possible formation of a city... somewhere around here.

I attended a meeting held by the 501c-3 Stand Up DeKalb this week, which dealt with the possible formation of a city somewhere “West of I-85” and “East of US 29” and “North of North Decatur Road” and …  An “area of eligibility” (my term) of about 30 square miles. Fear not, this is not a boundary that’s ever likely to be the subject of state legislation. What in God’s name would you call it? It might be easier to name it for what it isn’t—“Anywhere but”, which even sounds exclusionary, which coincidentally is something for which the whole cityhood movement has been criticized.

In fact, I’ve been told that if the Oak Grove/Druids are involved, any name is in play except “Northlake” (boo-hoo for me) because it invokes the wreckage of a mall and a bygone era. Maybe there will even be two or three “cities” (rather, call it “collective local representation” so as not to leave out some other form of jurisdictional).  Certainly Tucker will do something on its own now that the January-from-Hell PR problem has landed on DeKalb—the little village really is the one perfect historical town left in DeKalb. Did you see how Tuckerites came together when landmark Handy Ace Hardware burned down?  Contrast that with the reaction one could expect if Northlake Mall went up in flames.

One of the attendees at the Stand Up meeting suggested that “we” start “our city” small and intimate so as to annex areas later. Everybody knows what that means—Oak Grove. Just makes me feel good all over—how about you? Now there’s a representative community if I’ve ever seen one. Not an apartment complex in sight and very few rental homes to boot. Just wait ‘till the demographics are tabulated. You think Dunwoody has a hard time explaining it ain’t white?

Well—there may be some pretty powerful dissenting voices betting that their area will beat the “Grovians” to the punch. I sat at the Stand Up meeting with a guy from the Evansdale school zone and he pointed out that his house isn’t on the Stand Up map. He’s kinda big in Republican circles. He’s willing to bet he can get his legislative buddies from Dunwoody (those pesky provocateurs) to try his area before more Democrat Briarcliff—if you have to go small early on.

One can certainly see an area centered on Northlake Mall—and tight enough to exclude the people that hold their nose at it. The Northlake idea has the added benefit of incorporating Industrial property, a hospital and some railroad tracks (can you say commuter rail station)—no high school though, but that’s not a problem because we can now produce a charter school in a matter of days (again, thanks mostly to those same provocateurs.  You can make a case that a 2-mile radius around Northlake Mall would be the most “complete” of the new cities  on an economic asset basis (things that many new cities are very short on), even if only 10,000 people.  Since the new city movement is all about breaking all of the rules about what constitutes a city, why not one where the commercial/industrial revenue is twice that greater of the residential. Wait a darn minute! That is a traditional rule for a city!

People, there’s a reason this area has leadership “issues”. In the final analysis, we are not one area. We aren’t even three areas. We’re a bunch of fat and happy neighborhoods that has NEVER had a reason to organize together….and this is too damn big and risky an issue to start doing it. Sandy Springs had thirty (40?) years of Leadership This and Civic Roundtable That and a central core LCI and State Reps that had been fighting the legislative battle forever. People knew the terms of engagement. Dunwoody has a civic association that is respected by not only this county, but maybe the whole world. Dunwoody has historic society, Dunwoody has a center, Dunwoody is a darn PLACE for Pete’s sake. You think the Perimeter CID didn’t have discussions behind the scenes downtown with how many headquartered Fortune 500 companies?

The most visible power we have in “this” area (whatever that is) resides EVERYWHERE and they ain’t gonna help with no city. It’s the Federal government. What they will do is help with a Druid Hills Road/Buford Highway/I-85 Corridor CID. The Feds will engage to enhance their living space between PDK Airport and Emory University and all points between.

Start there with some special districts and maybe show some innovative leadership which forces the county government to respond to your needs. 

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Tom Doolittle January 29, 2013 at 04:37 PM
Lesson: http://www.ajc.com/news/news/johns-creek-and-milton-seek-legislative-action-tha/nT7FJ/ This is not only a potential tax increase--its points to two of many reasons that new cities are vulnerable that are relevent to our area: (1) New cities will have municipal infrastructure needs that are simply new facilities that require bond borrowing--these are currently not in UGa's tax projections or what I consider worse--UGa makes absolutley no RISK projections (2) This articles example--crumbling roads. Areas with density are efficiently maintained--in fact, they have "streets"--when you see "road", thats a red flag that you don't want to own it--low density, not efficient. In such cases, the outer reaches of Dunwoody are more expensive to maintain than say, downtown Atlanta on a per taxpayer served.
Rhea A Johnson Jr January 29, 2013 at 08:48 PM
Tom: County still takes care of Roads&Drainage, Water&Sewer,Sidewalks,Fire,Storm water. City Hall & Police Station are leased. Most other infrastructure & capital needs(except police cars) are out sourced or leased. Parks & other capital improvements get 5-10 million a year in host money. CID's (proposed University Triangle CID & North Druid Hills CID) can finance infrastructure needs in C-1,C-2,M-1,M-2. Our parents called this "pay as you go"...we must have forgotten. Take a look at the "Second" map on the CAN blog titled "Prospective Tax Digest" for the 10 billion tax digest necessary to finance services to" low density "(us) areas. This is like shipping...it's easy!
Tom Doolittle January 29, 2013 at 10:37 PM
Hi Rhea--I provided a link that described the problem that new North Fulton cities are having with paying as they go on roads. It's hard to believe that cites will have no other capital needs (see Atlanta) and not have budgets for bond payback. Lets take a medium density city like Roswell (which probably has annexed more land than it will able to afford as the economy continues to contract) and see whether it has bond service in its budget. The key is that I suggest we look at a worst case scenario. You think we've had economic contration yet--you ain't seen nuthin' yet. Also--cities are about to start their own school systems--capital needs. Also--ever hear of mission creep? All governments have it. All.
Rhea A Johnson Jr January 30, 2013 at 01:53 AM
TOM: Please run all the numbers before making your next post....as I have. Don't try to compare apples with oranges...North Fulton does NOT have favorable host distribution as we have. Call Joel G in County Finance to verify this . We pay for our roads thru our county taxes not city taxes, we only need to accept city services for Public Safety, Planning & Zoning & Code Enforcement and Parks and Rec at this time plus cast a wide net on city boundaries based initially on precincts as noted on current maps; fullsize versions with much detail are out and about for your edification. Yes DeKalb County's tax base is projected to decline 3-6% this year, but County property tax millage rates are forecast to increase into the future to offset declining Capital revenue. No need for worst case scenario....we are a fat and happy, wealthy part of the county as you noted earlier.......just need to get our act together ! Schools are NOT a problem if we create a viable Charter School System within our new City. Other cities in Fulton float bonds (yes some debt ....but what better investment for all of us even though only one in four families has children in school in DeKalb) to finance Charter schools. I was part of "mission creep" during the Vietnam war buildup, and the 800,000 civilian employees in the Pentagon are part of " mission creep", but we can handle this much smaller problem.
Tom Doolittle February 07, 2013 at 04:09 AM
Movement--evinces moving target--more the merrier. I like the press these folks got. http://lakesidecityalliance.org/

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