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DeKalb Cityhood committee meets

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DeKalb Cityhood committee meets

House DeKalb County Cityhood Subcommittee on Governmental Affairs meets on Dec. 3. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

The scene at the DeKalb County Cityhood Subcommittee of Governmental Affairs meeting. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

The House DeKalb County Cityhood Subcommittee of Governmental Affairs is holding a hearing at the state Capitol today to hear arguments from supporters of the proposed cities of LaVista Hills and Tucker.

LaVista Hills, comprised of the former Briarcliff and Lakeside cityhood movements, and Tucker, could not reach an agreement by a Nov. 15 deadline. The House Governmental Affairs committee Chairperson Rep. Amy Carter, R-Valdosta, appointed the five-person subcommittee to settle the matter.

Decaturish.com is here along with representatives from other cityhood movements like the City of South DeKalb. We will update this post throughout the hearing. The hearing was broadcast live and the archived video will be posted online.

1:12 – Hearing has started. LaVista Hills is presenting first. Tucker reps are OK with that.

Allan Venet, co-chair of LaVista Hills YES: “Two of the three groups agreed to merge. The bad news is we were unable to reach a compromise (with Tucker). That failure is a failure we all share. We all tried. We all failed and I guess we all apologize for having put this in your laps.”

LaVista Hills Supporter: “The city’s commitment to a police force is a key reason for my support.”

LaVista Hills Supporter No. 2: “We are not Tucker. We are LaVista Hills and we need to be in LaVista Hills.”

Another LaVista Hills cityhood supporter says property owners around Northlake Mall have agreed to a division of property that would make Tucker and LaVista viable.

1:40 pm: State Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, asks for clarification. If the committee does not come to an agreement by Dec. 31, does the cityhood issue die for the 2015 session. Chairperson Rep. Buzz Brockway says, “If the five of us fail to draw a map, the five of us are done as far as this process goes. Nothing at any point stops the two groups from coming together and saying, ‘We’ve had a breakthrough and we can agree on this.'”

Brockway adds that the House Governmental Affairs Committee is waiving the “two year rule” which requires a feasibility study before a city can be formed. If a map is agreed upon, legislation can be introduced next year, Brockway says.

1:43 pm: State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur says, “If we’re going to not require new feasibility studies … the financial data on the commercial area becomes relevant to me.”

1:44 pm: Tucker cityhood supporters presenting now.

Frank Auman with Tucker 2015 is presenting now. His presentation is partially blocked by a giant pillar in the hearing room.

Auman: “This map wouldn’t require a new feasibility study to be done. … Tucker is good to go. It’s demonstrated its economic feasibility on this map.”

Auman: “We’ve said from the beginning that Northlake is and always has been closely associated with Tucker and that hasn’t changed just because they ran an interstate (I-285) through the middle of town.”

Auman: “It’s a pretty powerful statement when a business person defines their market.” Notes that businesses in Tucker in 2013 voted to form a Community Improvement District, a self-taxing entity.

Auman said Holy Cross Church recently celebrated its jubilee, “in Tucker, a special and holy place in Tucker Georgia where God reigns. I’m not saying this lightly.” That got a laugh.

2:09 pm: Auman is being told he’s going over his allotted time. He asks for one minute to wrap up.

Auman: “The question is not can tucker do with less. The question is, is there a good reason to split it up?”

Tucker wrapped up at 2:12 pm.

Members of the panel quizzing Auman now.

Hamilton asks what services Tucker intends to provide.

Auman says zoning, parks, and code enforcement. He says he feels the decision to take on a police department is not something the cityhood group feels comfortable making before a city is formed and a council is elected.

2:20 pm:

Oliver: “I think land-use control is very very much at the heart of what citizens want. That’s very very important more so than you might realize from Harlem, GA.” Directed at Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem.

Fleming: “All we have is farms.”

Oliver: “They’re lovely farms.”

Brockway wonders if people in the contested area between LaVista and Tucker who favor LaVista would change their minds if Tucker decides to offer police services.

Hamilton asks both groups if they would become a city of all of the Northlake Mall area went to one city or the other. Both said yes.

Venet with LaVista Hills adds, “We would want to go forward. Whether we could go forward is a different question.”

2:30 pm.

State Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, is speaking. If LaVista Hills moves forward he would live in this proposed city.

“I believe our job is to make the process as fair and transparent as possible,” he says.

Holcomb says that Tucker’s cityhood movement is driven more by a sense of history while LaVista’s is driven more by a sense that residents could create better government than they currently have with DeKalb County.

Holcomb says he is concerned about letting a cityhood bill move forward without being certain whether they are economically viable.

“I have a lot of concerns. no new malls have been built in the United States since 2006,” he says, referring to Northlake Mall. “I have a little bit of personal concern about whether that’s smart to make it the economic engine of it.”

Holcomb also warns against going back to a compromise map developed in the 2014 session.

“The compromise map was strongly disfavored by the Northlake business community,” Holcomb says. “I would urge you not to go back to the compromise map agreed to at the end of the last session.”

Oliver adds that the compromise map was, “Not a fair and transparent compromise.”

Holcomb also recommends that the General Assembly, “Stop any annexations from going forward if the map is agreed to” by both cityhood movements.

2:40 pm. Hearing is over time and there are more than 40 people signed up for public comment. Brockway asks speakers to limit themselves to 1 minute, minute and a half.

Due to prior obligations, this will conclude our coverage of this hearing. One of our readers stuck around and summarized some of the public comments in the comments section beneath this article.