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Avondale shelves annexation vote until January

Annexation, new cities Avondale Estates Decatur

Avondale shelves annexation vote until January

Former mayor Terry Giager, left, and former city manager Clai Brown, right, present a proposed annexation map for the city of Avondale Estates. File Photo by Dan Whisenhunt
Mayor Terry Giager, left, and City Manager Clai Brown, right, present a proposed annexation map for the city of Avondale Estates. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

Mayor Terry Giager, left, and City Manager Clai Brown, right, present a proposed annexation map for the city of Avondale Estates. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

Avondale Estates Mayor Terry Giager said Wednesday, Dec. 3, that the City Commission will hold off on voting for an annexation plan until January.

Commissioners have been considering the plan to give to state Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale, to introduce in the 2015 session of the General Assembly. But Avondale’s efforts to annex more property have been fraught with controversy. Residents and commercial property owners affected by an earlier plan have asked to be removed from any new plans approved by the commission. Some have asked to join the city of Decatur’s plan.

Decatur officials say they are respecting Avondale’s annexation map. Decatur will reveal its revised annexation map on Dec. 8. Giager said he expect the Decatur City Commission to approve its plan this month.

Giager and commissioners thought they would need to approve a plan ahead of the 2015 session, which starts in January. Giager told Decaturish that members of the legislative delegation have assured him it’s fine to wait.

“Just because of everything going on and the conversations I’ve had, it seemed very reasonable that we could get this done in January rather than December and rush it through in the holidays,” Giager said. “Our map seems to be real fluid and changing. We want to make sure all the stats and the numbers make sense. Unless something happens and we have to have a special called meeting to make it earlier, we’re going to spend more time with our residents and look at the numbers and talk with the different areas.”

Giager made the announcement during a special work session on the annexation issue. Commissioners were uncertain about some parts of the draft annexation proposal. Residents of the Decatur Terrace neighborhood and commercial property owners in the Rio Circle area have asked to be removed from the plan. Drenner also has been lukewarm to the idea of introducing another bill on the city’s behalf. If Drenner introduces a bill and it passes, residents in the affected areas would get to vote on whether they would like to join the city of Avondale.

At a meeting in October, 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.

Avondale city commissioners did not approve a resolution supporting the annexation bill Drenner filed earlier this year. 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 recently questioned Avondale’s reasoning for cutting off Wal-Mart on its proposed map, a property that many residents, including Giager, fought to keep out of the city limits. That’s added a new dimension to the complicated and controversial debate.

Commissioner Randy Beebe went over portions of the map during the work session, noting what he liked about it and didn’t like.

“Decatur Terrace and Katie Kerr? I don’t feel the love,” Beebe said. “I like the 60 percent method for the simple reason it means people want to come to our city.”

Beebe was less sure about the Wal-Mart.

Giager said he’s in communication with Katie Kerr and is getting “some real positive vibes” from its residents about joining the city. He said he has concerns about the Wal-Mart, too. The mayor cited DeKalb County police statistics showing the store had more than 800 shoplifting calls between October 2013 and October 2014, which would require the city to hire two additional police officers.

That said, there’s no guarantee Wal-Mart will be around forever. Taking in that property might give the city some control over that area if it closes.

“If we’re looking at this in a year to two-year situation, it’s not going to look good for us,” Giager said. “If we’re looking at it in a four or five year situation (it could be good for us).”

Mike Easterwood, owner of Decatur Self Storage which is in the Rio Circle area, attended the meeting as well. He said the property owners are still concerned their properties would be considered “nonconforming” under the city’s zoning codes. Giager said that’s something he’s willing to work through if the property owners became a part of the city.

“When we talked I said I would go to the Planning and Zoning board,’ Giager said. “We would put special zoning in for you because we know what that property is not stagnant. It is going to change and we know that. We do not want to hurt you. We do not want to hurt development.”