Cityhood: Leafmore resident targets parallel course at Northlake

Northlake Overview Map
Northlake Overview Map  Download PDF 

Jeff Bragg, a 25-year Leafmore resident and COBI board member wants to turn the current conversation about Northlake on its head. The pivotal position of the Northlake business area has captured media attention as a way to frame the phenomenon of cityhood contention in “North Central DeKalb”. Pivotal because Northlake’s commercial zone is included on each of three cityhood maps (Lakeside, Briarcliff and Tucker) and the division of its ITP and OTP areas have proven to be insoluble in discussions among at least two of the groups. Note: “Northlake” has always been hard to define (mall, place or area) but the emergence of a possible cityhood referendum now requires at least some acceptable description of an entire “community of interest”. That agreement is elusive, as any honest person would say the North Central Corridor “Battle of the Boundaries” codifies and the proof is in the lengths that the legislature is forced to go to justify and author a referendum this year.

Bragg’s idea is to pull people together to “solve” Northlake and he says the effort is worthwhile regardless of the direction the legislature takes. As mapped today, the commercial/industrial “district” and a small number of homes represents an overlap between the Tucker and Briarcliff proposals and lies near center of Lakeside. This conception of Northlake symbolizes the difficulty in bringing groups together on any aspect of future of governance along the entire corridor between Atlanta and Gwinnett County. The former Cross Keyes High School teacher sees a solution for Northlake also potentially providing architecture for broadening community involvement and not relying on self-styled representatives. Bragg, who describes himself as a Democratic Socialist with experience in mass movements, said he became driven to devise the plan after spending a lot of time in mapping a shared allocation of Northlake during fruitless discussions between the Briarcliff and Tucker groups.

Says Bragg, “In January I prepared "planning maps" for the team COBI appointed in case we were able to arrange formal negotiations again with Tucker. For reasons attributable to both sides, no such formal negotiations occurred.” He proposed defining various Northlake zones, six of them to be the subject of a general conversation that would be a model for an effort later to define one or several larger communities of interest. Defining communities of interest might result in discussing various forms of governance, from CIDs and overlay districts to townships and annexation areas—and new cities, depending on the legislature’s decision and/or July referendum result.

In Bragg’s view, too much of the cityhood attention has been placed on the few people that formed advocacy groups to define cities. He points to dysfunction as having been recognized and frustrated many people, but thinks it really is a lack of broader public ownership—ironically caused by the groups’ existence. Frustrated, he says he and others he has worked with “want to go outside the political process we’re forced to work with. The more we do it this way, the more realize it isn’t appropriate to the idea of community-based city formation.” He says there may be a clear chance to make a difference: “cityhood may or may not pass this year and bills may pass that change the conversation.”

Bragg’s initial memo to COBI and Tucker 2014 stated, "The map sets were created for discussions about alternatives available in any compromises over the area around Northlake Mall. The labeled segments are outlines of areas that can be treated separately. They reflect differences in geography, function, value, and accessibility. The letters used to label the segments do not indicate anything about their relative value. There are other logical and subjective ways to divide this area, so we all should be open to variations." Examples of Bragg’s Northlake maps are attached to this blog entry.

Self-Disclaimer: "Jeff Bragg is a supporter of the Briarcliff Initiative. However, in offering these planning maps for community discussions, he is acting as an individual who wants to see the community engaged in a 'bottoms-up' conversation not mediated by, or dominated by, any of the cityhood or anti-city groups. This is NOT a 'project' of COBI."

All parties interested in a group discussion at Blue Ribbon Grille and/or looking at Northlake Zone maps are directed to Jeff Bragg’s e-mail braggson@springmail.com and his Facebook page.


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Tom Doolittle February 17, 2014 at 11:25 PM
Druid Hills will preserve the option to be annexed into Atlanta. I was wondering about those islands--Randy you say the Dunwoody precedent allows the islands to exist? Perhaps because they become annexation fodder for later?
Angela Trosclair February 18, 2014 at 12:16 AM
I would not put too much faith in the AJC's statistical models. Stonecrest is showing a 45% chance of passing. The paper shouldn't even be tracking that one.
Rhea A Johnson Jr February 18, 2014 at 03:37 AM
Randy….hate to disappoint but "island precedence"(where does he get this stuff)means nothing in the current case. I will check on the status of the Doraville annexation(I have an interest since I created their most recent map)and continue to poll the HGAC members on this issue after Thursday's Delegation meeting.
Mark Miller February 18, 2014 at 08:50 AM
Tom, Druid Hills is more likely to want to be a big fish in a little pond (the "new" city map that LCA will be "encouraged" to adopt) rather than a little fish in a big pond (City of Atlanta). It is an area of well connected, well educated and politically active people and their inclusion in the "new" city will be quite formidable. This may be the fear of LCA and why they have re-buffed Druid Hills all along. Thanks for your participation and input.
RandyRand February 18, 2014 at 10:29 AM
Rhea, What island precedence means is that it will not be a “show stopper” going forward for LCA! Obviously, the rule about avoiding Islands was never intended, as COBI pigishly did, to have cities gobble up every area outside nearby existing cityhood’s. Islands or buffer zones are where the mediation, if any is ever required will be mandated. Settling annexations as Dunwoody and Doraville did provides legislature a reality based example and a clear path forward.
RandyRand February 18, 2014 at 10:39 AM
Mark, The way it has always been presented, without refute, is that Druid Hills, “those highly connected and politically savvy geniuses “ actually rebuffed LCA ‘s offers early on and on more than one occasion. “No Thanks, we are doing our own thing” was the public message from DHCA! Obviously this “formidable” group may be having some second thoughts now, and perhaps they will be able use all those highly touted skills and humbly work out an annexation strategy!
Bill Lowe February 18, 2014 at 11:08 AM
Doraville will administratively annex in the remaining Unincorporated areas inside the perimeter. It's a no brainer. Less than 500 residents and a good bit of commercial property along I-85 from Chamblee Tucker to Spaghetti Junction. Probably 80 million of taxable commercial property within that area. I did the numbers on the unincorporated stretch within the 30341 zip code last year some time and that was @ 10 million in taxable properties.
Rhea A Johnson Jr February 18, 2014 at 11:27 AM
Randy…sorry to pop your bubble but unincorporated island and affected annexation issues will probably be decided in the HGAC. Bill….. The numbers are, Commercial 41M,Industrial 192M,Residential 86M - Total 320M for areas under consideration NW of I-85.
Mark Miller February 18, 2014 at 11:59 AM
Homework assignment for LCA......start working on a new name for the city that the HGAC will "encourage" you to adopt. "LAVISTA HILLS" , as orginally suggested by Sen. Jason Carter, has a nice ring to it and reflects much of the "new" boundaries that will be re-mapped.
Tom Doolittle February 18, 2014 at 12:33 PM
Hi Mark: One things for sure on the Druid Hills preference is we'll never know what was said and by who (right?). I would point to the people who arranged Druid Hills and Emory to switch from DeKalb's 4th to Atlanta's 5th Cong Dist in 2004. Besides, are you saying that the chosen map (Lake/Briar/Lavista) is going to ultimately go all the way to the Atlanta City Line (so include Druid Hills)?
Jim Tackett February 18, 2014 at 12:46 PM
Much nicer name, Mark, I agree. I suspect that the name "Briarcliff" appeals to those near Briarcliff Woods, but no one else I know cares for it. Lavista reflects the corridor for this area too, that brings us to what really has become our new "Main Street" -- the shops, restaurants and new park of Oak Grove village-- and, it runs past Toco, which you suggest would logically house the city center buildings too. Lavista Hills, I like it.
Enuff Govt Already February 18, 2014 at 01:02 PM
Reference Doraville annexation; the residents thrice voted against being annexed but the local delegation went ahead and provided a path for a virtually bankrupt and completely mismanaged city to annex the area without a vote. The resident's vote is becoming less and less important.
RandyRand February 18, 2014 at 01:12 PM
Perhaps your Lavista attraction is a manifestation a your subliminal feeling of LCA passing you by: Hasta lavista” BYE BYE!
Mark Miller February 18, 2014 at 01:19 PM
Tom, "Yes", I predict that the new map that emerges from the House that LCA will be "encouraged" to accept will include Druid Hills to the Atlanta City and Decatur City limits, the "islands" of Executive Park, LaVista Park and Woodland Hills as well Medlock Park, Clairmont Heights and North Druid Valley. OTP and Scottdale will be removed. Unlikely that Druid Hills will join City of Atlanta for three reasons: 1) Big fish, little fish scenario that I explained earlier, 2) moving their Druid High school boundaries from DeKalb to Atlanta Public Schools will enrage many and 3) Druid Hills residents would be levied with that extra 1% sales tax in City of Atlanta that pays for sewer upgrades. Every phone and utility bill and major purchases like auto will carry this extra levy if they join City of Atlanta. Their neighborhood association is very powerful (with good reason) and they did not contribute funds to COBI out of the goodness of their community chest fund just to be kicked around and ignored by LCA. They will likely be at the table of this new city and have tremendous influence for reasons that I previously mentioned. IMO. Sheer folly to ignore them in the first place.
Longerthanu February 18, 2014 at 02:15 PM
Druid Hills in Atlanta would mean much higher property taxes for almost everyone in D.H. DHCA has a whole section on cityhood & annexation on its web site. Comments are interesting: http://druidhills.org/cityhood-annexation-options/
Tom Doolittle February 18, 2014 at 02:45 PM
Mark: There's a nuance with respect to a "map that emerges", something that I've never been clear about. Maybe you know exactly how the current conversations are going between Senators (or House members) and people that are supposedly drawing the maps (the cityhood advocate groups, LCA and Briarcliff). Who precisely is responsible for the boundaries? How can a legislator pick an area such as Druid Hills and "suggest" something without the legislature being ultimately the authors of the map. Is this just some sleight of hand--are there rules involved. If local residents (represented to the legislature as our city fathers) are not the originators of the boundaries, does that not go against the spirit of the law? Does it not go against the principal that the map is locally authored?
Mark Miller February 18, 2014 at 03:30 PM
Tom, I have no inside information nor answers to your questions, but based upon experience, whenever there is so much rancor over issues in the Legislature and the communities at large such as there are with DeKalb Cityhood proposals, there will be compromise and nothing is cast in stone. We will know within just a few weeks how all of this actually unfolds.
Mark Miller February 18, 2014 at 04:13 PM
Tom, Herman Lorenz has an excellent grasp and knowledge of the Cityhood political process within the Legislature. Perhaps, he could answer your questions And, let us be ever mindful that this is an election year and the legislators want their electorate to be happy. This will also bear influence on the outcome of the cityhood efforts.
Tom Doolittle February 18, 2014 at 04:18 PM
thanks Mark--any idea what pleasing the electorate means? I suppose that's easy for Republicans, but how does a Democrat read the preferences of his/her voters on whether they want a referendum or not, let alone a city? Come to think about it, its not that easy to read the Republican public either.
Longerthanu February 18, 2014 at 05:03 PM
You can bet politicians are getting plenty of nastygrams from their constituents.
RandyRand February 18, 2014 at 06:08 PM
Let’s handicap the process a little by asking some simple questions relevant whether it’s an election year or not. How many local area Republican House members will have a problem allowing the citizens to vote on LCA? Answer Zero. How many Republican House members care whether local area Democrat house members receive nasty-grams about LCA? The answer again is Zero. The same goes for the Senate! Somewhere along the line Democrat’s got it in their minds that if they got enough of Cheryl & her Kook Troup to say negative things on her totally bias Survey Monkey, that anyone with power would care. Flying Monkey biscuits as they are known by zoo keepers are just the price you pay for being in politics. Unfortunately for the Tucker folks , all Cheryl’s Monkey Biscuits look like they are coming from you!
Tom Doolittle February 18, 2014 at 07:30 PM
Longer--thanks for the link to Druid Hills chat. I'm very surprised there isn't a more robust conversation going on there. Do people read the website much? Druid Hills and Emory are the most interesting part of The Corridor's future vis a vis Regional politics. Kind of a fulcrum or pivot.
Longerthanu February 18, 2014 at 08:18 PM
I actually haven't heard much from my friends or co-workers who live in Druid Hills. The city data site chatter came to a halt months ago (http://www.city-data.com/forum/atlanta/1935432-druid-hills-discuss-briarcliff-cityhood-annexation-8.html ). I don't know how engaged the residents really are. I do know DHCA throws money around to protect its interests/hedge its bets, with little to no input from its members. It put up $7500 toward the successful effort to shut down Pure nightclub, to discourage a similar venture anywhere near its neighborhood. So a $15k donation to CoBI to ensure Lakeside wouldn't try to pull DH in wouldn't surprise me. DH might just want to stay unincorporated, with the attendant lower taxes. (Note the study NDCA did on property taxes under a CoA annexation scenario.) They already spend a fortune to keep up their lovely, but maintenance-intensive homes, which are well-known by Atlantans to be money pits.
Longerthanu February 18, 2014 at 08:35 PM
And Tom, here's Regency Centers' report on Briarcliff Village http://www.regencycenters.com/uploads/000203-sdr.pdf It does, btw, have an Atlanta address.
Tom Doolittle February 18, 2014 at 09:45 PM
yes--Briarcliff Village is 30345 Atlanta. The other one is called Briarcliff-Lavista Shopping Center (Michaels, Blue Ribbon)--it is 30084 Tucker and is shown that way on the link you gave--I spit and hit it from B'Cliff Village. I think you folks are starting to get this issue pretty well. Its the pits.
Longerthanu February 18, 2014 at 09:54 PM
That location note really was for the "neener, neener, I told you it was in ______" crowd. Zip codes only matter if you're the machine that reads them at USPS.
Enuff Govt Already February 19, 2014 at 01:52 PM
How is the newest city handling things : http://brookhavenpost.co/appeal-contends-zoning-map-adoption-violated-zoning-procedures-law/13732 and http://brookhavenpost.co/brookhaven-official-vying-for-city-contract-raises-ethics-concerns/12847 and the initial renovation of the police station stayed in the family, literally. Ref the Pink Pony: http://brookhavenpost.co/pink-pony-lawsuit-a-brookhaven-resident-provides-a-perspective/11168 Cast a wary eye toward those seeking political power.
Cheryl Miller February 19, 2014 at 05:37 PM
Wow! Interesting zoning "fail" post.
Angie February 27, 2014 at 12:36 PM
As a resident that would be included in both the LCA & CoBI maps, I just hope one makes it through & my money is on LCA at this point. I am quite surprised there is such focus on which name is chosen & find it childish. You can call me anything so long as I'm improving.
Tom Doolittle February 27, 2014 at 01:24 PM
Angie--thanks for giving us a new data-point.


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