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Proposed legislation would give cities a right to vote on annexation

Annexation, new cities Avondale Estates Decatur Kirkwood and East Lake Metro ATL

Proposed legislation would give cities a right to vote on annexation

DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

This story has been updated. 

One of the underlying tensions of the debate over whether to increase the size of DeKalb County cities through annexation involves who gets to vote on the proposals.

Under current state law, only people who live in the area to be annexed would get to vote on whether to join an existing city. The residents of the existing city don’t get to vote.

But a new bill could change that if it survives the current legislative session. House Bill 360 would require voting by both citizens of the area to be annexed and citizens of the existing city.

The text of the bill says, “In addition, those persons registered to vote for members of the General Assembly residing, on the date of the adoption of the resolution, in the corporate limits of the municipality shall vote in the referendum. If both a majority of those voting in the proposed area to be annexed and a majority of those voting in the corporate limits of the municipality vote in favor of annexation, the area shall become a part of the corporate limits of the municipality, but not otherwise.”

HB 360 is sponsored by Rep. Beth Beskin, R-Atlanta. Beskin said the bill isn’t about any particular annexation proposal but it’s about making the process more transparent.

She said many people are surprised to learn that residents of cities don’t get to vote in annexation referendums.

“I think it’s important for transparency purposes, so all affected citizens can do their due diligence,” she said.

Both Decatur and Avondale Estates have proposed annexation plans to expand their borders. So far, neither city’s plan has been introduced as legislation.

The annexation proposals are a response to plans to create new cities in DeKalb County. There are currently proposals for the cities of LaVista Hills, Tucker, Greenhaven and Stonecrest. Those new cities would consist of currently unincorporated areas in DeKalb County.

While Avondale and Decatur’s plans are not in conflict, a portion of Decatur’s annexation map and the map for the proposed city of LaVista Hills are in conflict with an annexation proposal for Atlanta. That proposal, championed by Together in Atlanta, would bring the Druid Hills community, including Emory University and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, into the city of Atlanta. The TIA proposal also includes the attendance zones for Briar Vista Elementary and Fernbank Elementary. If it is approved, those schools, along with Druid Hills High, are expected to become part of Atlanta Public Schools.

Currently legislators are trying to resolve the boundary disputes between Together in Atlanta and LaVista Hills.

Read more: HB 360.