Map to Future: With new cities on the way, is it time for Decatur to annex?

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt December 16, 2013

It’s not a question of if whether all of northern DeKalb County will incorporate into new cities, City Manager Peggy Merris says.

It’s a question of when.

There’s a municipal gold rush going on in DeKalb County. Merriss is asking the city commissioners to consider staking their claim before incorporation reaches their doorstep.

Merriss sent commissioners a matter-of-fact assessment about current cityhood efforts in a letter that was also published on the city’s website. Commissioners will discuss Annexation Plan 2014 at their meeting tonight, which begins at 7:30 p.m. It’s one of the last items on a pretty busy agenda, but I’m sure it’s something that will make for an interesting conversation.

When the Georgia Legislature meets next year, it will consider the requests of several communities looking to break away from DeKalb County government. Forming a new city requires the backing of a feasibility study. If the study shows a new city would generate enough tax revenue to support itself, the Legislature has to agree to put the question on a ballot referendum. If the majority of voters approve it, then you’ve got a new city. It’s already happened in DeKalb County, first in Dunwoody and most-recently in Brookhaven.

Any incorporation effort has to get through the Legislature first, however, and some of the cities that are being discussed are in competition with each other.

There are proposals for cities of Briarcliff, Lakeside, Tucker and Stonecrest. They’re in various stages of the process and some of the maps overlap. Merriss’ letter shows concern about the proposed boundaries of an incorporated Briarcliff.

“The potential existence of new cities in north DeKalb County has a significant impact on the future of the City of Decatur, particularly given that the proposed borders of the City of Briarcliff surround the existing City of Decatur northern city limits on all sides,” Merriss writes. “Once the city¬†is surrounded by other municipal borders, our city limits are set and there will be no capacity to change. Basically, the city limits will be permanently set.”

Translation: When it comes to annexation, better get it while the gettin’ is good.

Merriss also included this map:

This map is being supplied to City Commissioners ahead of Tonight's Decatur City Commission meeting. I have added yellow color to the suggested boundary lines to make them easier to see.  - Dan

This map is being supplied to City Commissioners ahead of Tonight’s Decatur City Commission meeting. I have added yellow color to the suggested boundary lines to make them easier to see. – Dan

In her letter, Merriss says, “Attached is a very preliminary draft of what the future City limits could encompass. This is an important starting point that should be incorporated into the community-based committee discussions about City Schools enrollments and facilities. We also need to continue discussions with the City of Avondale Estates to assure that each city’s plans are consistent. To that end, we anticipate putting together for your consideration in January 2014, a project¬†budget proposal to include professional demographic, financial, capital planning and market analysis assistance to review and analyze potential annexation options and the impacts on the community. This group could also provide assistance and expertise with the efforts of the community-based committee’s work.”

Emphasis in bold is mine. As you can see, the map itself is very crude (I added yellow color to the proposed boundary lines to help you better distinguish it from the surrounding area.) It sounds like Merriss wants commissioners to move with a sense of urgency. Expect that there will be some intense discussion over the next few months about this map and its implications for the city’s future.

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