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Dear Decaturish – LaVista Hills needs to listen

Annexation and new cities D'ish Metro ATL

Dear Decaturish – LaVista Hills needs to listen

Photo obtained via the Laurel Ridge Neighbors Facebook page.

Photo obtained via the Laurel Ridge Neighbors Facebook page.

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Transparency.  Honesty.  Citizen input. Three major promises made by the new cityhood and annexation movements in DeKalb County, and three reasons that my neighborhood – Laurel Ridge Shamrock – has been given for us to support being in the City of LaVista Hills.

Yes, there is valid motivation behind these movements, and unincorporated DeKalb County cannot and should not maintain the status quo.  Yet the current process – filled with dibs over residential, commercial, and school property, unanswered questions, and countless unknown consequences to the majority of those citizens who will have no vote – is anything but transparent, honest, or listening to citizen input.

Take the City of LaVista Hills.  Its website lists no contact information, no information about the people working on the city, no committee information and no minutes of any committees or public input meetings.  Also, no representative of LaVista Hills or either of its predecessors asked Laurel Ridge Shamrock if our neighborhood wanted to be in any of the proposed new cities before including us in all of their maps.

When our elected officials told us our voices would be heard through a neighborhood civic association survey, our newly enacted civic association (“LRSCA”) conducted surveys.  The results expressed our neighborhood’s preference to remain out of any map, LRSCA provided those results to LaVista Hills on Dec. 1, 2014, and on several subsequent occasions LRSCA and individual neighbors requested that we be removed from the map.

Last week, after being bombarded by LRSCA and several neighbors, LaVista Hills co-chair Allen Venet finally admitted that he had not even reviewed the LRSCA survey results; however, if we want out of the map we would need to contact those same elected officials who told us that we need to send our survey results to LaVista Hills to be removed from the map.  At the same time Mr. Venet wanted to “be clear” that the City of LaVista Hills would have absolutely no effect on our schools.

So why don’t we just vote “no” to LaVista Hills?  Ironically, in this instance we do not want a vote because if we lose, we lose big.  Together in Atlanta (“TIA”)’s proposed annexation plan, if realized, would leave our elementary and the other remaining schools in the Druid Hills feeder cluster without a high school.  If we remain out of any map we at least would have options – whether those options come to fruition or not – to stay with our school cluster.

No other neighborhood in the proposed City of LaVista Hills faces this type of quandary, and many may want to be in the new city.  For Laurel Ridge Shamrock, however, if we remain in the map, and if both LaVista Hills and TIA’s plans succeed, we would irreversibly be split from the remainder of our school cluster and high school.  And no one knows how the cost of massive redistricting and loss of so much revenue would affect where our children would subsequently attend high school, or even our property values.

So forgive us, Mr. Venet, for we do not think it is “clear” that being in the City of LaVista Hills will have no effect on our schools – at least not right now.

Thus, we continue to ask, why force us to be drawn into a new city we don’t want to be in?  Why not listen to our surveys, take us out of the map until we know how all of the other cityhood and annexation movements will affect us, and allow us to join later if we so choose?  Is not listening to us what we can expect from this new city?

If this is the type of honesty, transparency, and attention to citizen input that we can look forward to in the new City of LaVista Hills, I’d rather not add another layer of that type of government to the one I already have.

–          Staci Melton