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Drenner: Avondale annexation bill a ‘long way away’

Annexation and new cities Avondale Estates Decatur

Drenner: Avondale annexation bill a ‘long way away’

State Rep. Karla Drenner speaks to Katie Kerr residents on Oct. 29. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt
State Rep. Karla Drenner speaks to Katie Kerr residents on Oct. 29. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

State Rep. Karla Drenner speaks to Katie Kerr residents on Oct. 29. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

A recent article published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution about Avondale Estates’ annexation plans angered commercial property owners who don’t want to be in Avondale.

State Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, said the comments in the interview left out some important context about the annexation debate.

Property owners with land along East Ponce de Leon, DeKalb Industrial Way, Laredo, Pine Street and Rio Circle recently filed an annexation petition with the city of Decatur. The petitioners also asked that they be removed from Avondale’s annexation plans. Mike Easterwood, owner of Decatur Self Storage, said he was under the impression Drenner wouldn’t introduce an annexation bill that includes properties that don’t want to be in Avondale.

“She’s not keeping her word on this one,” Easterwood said.

The AJC.com article quoted Drenner as saying that Rio Circle is a “better fit” for Avondale. The AJC story says Drenner has “changed her mind” about the bill because the city needs commercial property.

Decaturish called Drenner and asked her if she intended to file an annexation bill that includes Rio Circle.

At a meeting last month, Drenner told Katie Kerr residents that a previous annexation plan she submitted on behalf of the city is “dead.” That map included Rio Circle, and residential neighborhoods like Katie Kerr. She said she is encouraging people to file annexation petitions with the city.

Drenner said on Tuesday that, “We’re a long way away (from a bill), but I’m not the only person that represents Avondale.”

She is being cautious because of the controversy over issue in Avondale.

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Avondale city commissioners did not approve a resolution supporting the annexation bill Drenner filed earlier this year. Commissioners are considering another resolution asking Drenner to introduce another annexation bill.

DeKalb delegation members pulled the previous annexation bill before the end of the session after efforts to create a city of Lakeside failed. Lakeside has since joined with the supporters of creating a city of Briarcliff, and they’ve combined their maps to create a proposed city of LaVista Hills.

Drenner said when she introduced the bill, she believed it had been vetted. But it caught many residents off guard, leading to a contentious Oct. 1 meeting between residents and city officials. Ed Rieker resigned as mayor the next day to take a university teaching job.

Drenner said Tuesday that the AJC article doesn’t mention that Decatur doesn’t want Rio Circle because it is in Avondale’s plan.

Drenner met with Decatur Mayor Jim Baskett and Mayor Pro Tem Kecia Cunningham on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

“The city of Decatur … is not interested in the Rio property, number one, but number two, the Rio property owners have met with Avondale Estates,” Drenner said.  “… They have been operating under false information with regard to zoning and taxes. The Decatur group (on Tuesday) morning, the mayor, the assistant city manager and mayor pro tem, all suggested that them coming into Decatur would be much more expensive than for them to be in Avondale.

“The other piece is if in fact Avondale is going to proceed with annexing all of these residential properties, they’re going to have to add some commercial base to the city. All of the other cities are doing the same thing. I think it’s important that the city of Avondale talk to the business owners and dispel some of this misinformation that is circulating about what life would be like as part of the city of Avondale.”

The “misinformation” Drenner is referring to is whether the Rio Circle property owners would be able to move into the city with the zoning they have under DeKalb County. Avondale officials have assured the property owners that nothing would change. Easterwood said the Rio Circle property owners feel very informed about what would happen if their properties moved into Avondale.

He also said that Decatur does want to annex Rio Circle, despite the commission’s benign indifference to the group’s petition.

“It is not true that they don’t want us,” Easterwood said. “It is not true. They’re just not going to say it because of something they have going on with Avondale. That’s all I can tell you. Everybody wants us.”