Medlock weighs possibilities as cityhood looms

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt August 27, 2014
The boundaries of the Medlock Area Neighborhood Association, obtained via

The boundaries of the Medlock Area Neighborhood Association, obtained via

The House Governmental Affairs Committee is giving all groups pursuing a new city until Nov. 15 to come up with maps to submit to the DeKalb County Legislative delegation.

One local community, the Medlock Area Neighborhood Association, gathering information from both the city of Atlanta and the city of Briarcliff groups. But LakesideYES, a group that has – in theory – agreed to work with Briarcliff to come up with a new map, told the Medlock residents it would be attending that neighborhood’s meeting with Briarcliff representatives set for Thursday.

There are also proposals to incorporate Tucker as a city.

In an email forwarded to Decaturish, Mary Kay Woodworth with LakesideYES explained to Medlock residents why Lakeside reps won’t be at Thursday’s meeting, saying, “While we are working toward collaboration with (the City of Briarcliff Initiative), we have not reached an agreement yet on adding additional areas. ”

“We were very concerned that prematurely holding an informational cityhood meeting could set unrealistic or unattainable expectations,” Woodworth wrote. “We shared this concern with COBI and suggested that the meeting be postponed.  We continue to have this concern.”

The letter is reprinted at the end of this article.

Lynn Ganim, acting president of the Medlock Area Neighborhood Association, said the conflicting information about the cityhood proposals can be confusing.

“We don’t even know if we’re going to have a choice,” Ganim said. “We don’t even know if the decision is going to be made for us… we are progressing as if we will have a choice and what we’re trying to do is gather as much information about all the possibilities as we can to present to our members and say, ‘This is what we think the options are for you to consider.’ We’re not even sure if they are options for us. It’s very unsettling not to be sure if you’re going to have a voice or not.”

Ganim said Woodworth’s letter confirmed her suspicions that talks between the Briarcliff and Lakeside movements have become strained in recent weeks.

“I wasn’t surprised,” she said. “That was pretty much what we had assumed was Lakeside’s position and it confirmed our sense that things are not going as smoothly as we might have hoped in the discussions with Briarcliff and Lakeside. …  None of us understands exactly what’s going on between Lakeside and Briarcliff. The bottom line for us is we’re as confused as everybody else and we’re just trying to gather as much information as we can and we would very much love to have a chance to have a discussion with somebody from the city of Decatur.”

Ganim said no one from the city of Decatur has reached out to MANA. Decatur recently awarded a $25,000 contract to the Sizemore Group for annexation master planning services. The city of Decatur is looking to expand its boundaries from 4.2 square miles to 5.2 square miles, adding areas that include Suburban Plaza, the Kroger shopping center and Patel Plaza. It would also add between 4,000 and 5,000 people to Decatur’s population, currently about 20,000 residents.

The Medlock Area Neighborhood Association, like many North Decatur communities, is under the gun. It’s widely expected that there will be some proposal on a new city that will be passed in the Legislature this year. North Decatur neighborhoods face the possibilities of being annexed into Decatur, Atlanta or becoming part of whatever new city the Legislature approves for a referendum.

MANA has a meeting set up with City of Briarcliff Reps for Thursday, Aug. 28, at 7 pm at North Decatur Presbyterian Church.

“This is the time to ask your questions about one of the possible choices facing us in the near future,” a message posted on the MANA website says.

Neighborhood reps also recently attended a meeting called by the Druid Hills Civic Association to discuss potential annexation into Atlanta. There were 15 to 20 other associations there, MANA reported.

According to MANA, Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan said, “that within the Atlanta City Council there is considerable interest in the possibility of annexing the represented areas.  He stated that Atlanta will not recruit, but it ‘welcomes any community.”

There would be a lot of details that would need to be worked out, like how Atlanta Public Schools would incorporate DeKalb County Schools.

State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, “stated that much of what happens with the schools depends on what the Druid Hills Charter Cluster does next (litigation or some other approach),” according to MANA. To read MANA’s full recap of that meeting, click here.

The DeKalb County Board of Education has blocked initiatives by Druid Hills to create a charter cluster there, which has led to increased talk of bolting for Atlanta. Here’s a concise recap of that issue from the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

There’s been some friction between Briarcliff and Lakeside of late. After Decaturish on Monday republished a map of “areas of interest” that are under discussion by the groups, Woodworth with LakesideYES sent a message saying that she wanted to be clear that Briarcliff did not discuss publishing the map with LakesideYES. That led to another angry email to Decaturish from Briarcliff proponents claiming that the map, and its intent, had been misconstrued.

The groups better resolve their differences quickly. The Legislature isn’t going to wait around, according to a statement from the Governmental Affairs Committee.

“If an agreement cannot be reached by (Nov. 15), House Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Amy Carter will appoint a panel of five state House members to carry out the task of drawing city boundaries for the proposed cities,” the release says. “The panel’s sole charge will be to produce a boundary map no later than Dec. 31 by majority vote of the panel.”

That statement is also reprinted at the end of this article.

Here is the full email from Mary Kay Woodworth with LakesideYES: 

Dear Lynn Ganim,

I hope that you are well.

I’m contacting you to notify you that LakesideYES’  will not be participating in the COBI meeting this week, and also to clarify our position on the Medlock/Clairmont Hills areas, along with other areas that are not currently in Lakeside’s map.  While we are working toward collaboration with COBI, we have not reached an agreement yet on adding additional areas. 

1)  The “starting” map for the Lakeside/COBI collaboration is the final map introduced by Rep. Mike Jacobs at the end of the 2014 legislative session.  This is the starting point, but certainly will not be the final map.   The map is on our website:  I have also attached a better version to this email.

2.  Since we have not yet reached agreement with COBI regarding additional areas to add, I’ll answer only from LakesideYES’ perspective.

a)  Emory/Druid Hills are explicably linked, they are not under consideration for addition to the above map.  LakesideYES has no intention of interfering with that community’s efforts.

b) When the Executive Park area was added to the Lakeside map in the “compromise” map, this created a potential island that would be difficult to service if it remained unincorporated DeKalb. – the Woodland Hills/LaVista Lindbergh area.  This area could potentially become part of a new city (Lakeside) or annex into Atlanta.  As a potential island, that’s a primary concern for those residents, and we have offered to assist them with polling/petition.  This will involve the neighborhood associations and residents as the driver of the polls, petitions or surveys.

c) We believe that other communities who are not currently in the Lakeside map should also have the same right for self-determination of their status and future. After discussions with Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, Commissioner Jeff Rader, DMA’s Bill Floyd and others, it appears that your area could have a number of options – be part of a new city, potentially annex into Decatur or Atlanta (although we know that Decatur is currently only interested in commercial areas) or remain unincorporated for the time being and decide at a future time what would be your best option.

 We understand that the Medlock/Clairmont Hills area has decided to conduct their own poll/survey which will provide direction for those areas, and potentially for inclusion in a new city (or to stay unincorporated, or to pursue annexation at a later date).  If this internal polling does indicate that these areas are interested in being part of Lakeside/Briarcliff’s effort, we believe that would be the time to meet with you and begin a serious conversation with the community, legislators, consider financial viability and determine boundaries.  

We were very concerned that prematurely holding an informational cityhood meeting could set unrealistic or unattainable expectations.  We shared this concern with COBI and suggested that the meeting be postponed.  We continue to have this concern.

As you know, community interest alone does not guarantee that an area will be added to the map. Respect for existing city boundaries and annexation plans, legislative issues, economic mix of property, manageable size for efficient delivery of services, etc. along with community interest are all important components. 

Contrary to claims that Lakeside excluded areas for some arbitrary reason, Lakeside’s goal was to bring a referendum to residents of the map based on a clearly defined community of interest (originally based roughly on the Lakeside High School attendance zone).  The size (geographical and population) and positive economic viability were also high priorities for the boundaries of the original map.  Unfortunately, that effort was not realized during the last legislative session. We hope that the collaboration with Briarcliff will yield positive results for a new city in DeKalb, and look forward to finalizing the boundaries so that we can successfully move forward in 2015.

I hope that we will have the opportunity in the near future to meet with you.  Please share this information with those in your community.

Please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.

Warm regards,

Mary Kay Woodworth

Here is the full statement from the House Governmental Affairs Committee:

ATLANTA—Today State Representatives Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven) and Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody) met with Briarcliff, Lakeside and Tucker cityhood proponents to discuss directions issued by House Governmental Affairs Committee Chairwoman Amy Carter (R-Valdosta) for DeKalb County cityhood boundary line proposals.  The House Governmental Affairs Committee oversees legislation in the Georgia House of Representatives involving the creation of new cities.

“Tom Taylor and I worked with Rep. Carter, Chair of the House Governmental Affairs Committee, to develop a process for DeKalb County cityhood proponents to follow as we approach next session,” said Rep. Jacobs. “Our goal for this process is to encourage all stakeholders to engage in conversations now about cityhood boundary lines and to ensure any remaining disputes are resolved prior to 2015.”


The directions for drawing cityhood proposals are as follows:

  • Each of the three DeKalb County cityhood proponent groups (City of Briarcliff Initiative, Lakeside Yes, and Tucker 2015) will have until September 5 to identify one authorized signatory for a compromise boundary map.
  • DeKalb County cityhood proponents have until November 15 to come to a mutual agreement on city boundary lines and submit the agreed upon map bearing three signatures from the authorized signatories to the House Governmental Affairs Committee.
  • If an agreement cannot be reached by that date, House Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Amy Carter will appoint a panel of five state House members to carry out the task of drawing city boundaries for the proposed cities. The panel’s sole charge will be to produce a boundary map no later than December 31 by majority vote of the panel.
  • Either the agreed upon map by cityhood proponents or the map drawn by the legislative panel will be the only acceptable version that the House Governmental Affairs Committee will consider.

“This process Rep. Jacobs and Rep. Taylor developed gives cityhood proponents in DeKalb County the best chance for successful passage of legislation that will allow new city proposals to go before the voters for consideration,” said House Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Amy Carter. “There is a need to bring order to this process and the directions outlined to the stakeholders today will accomplish just that.”

For more information about the House Governmental Affairs Committee, please click here.

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