Rep. Drenner is elusive about annexation during town hall
By Carey O’Neil, contributor
State Rep. Karla Drenner said she just doesn’t know whether an Avondale Estates annexation bill would be in the best interest of the city.
“I don’t have an opinion one way or another,” the Avondale Estates representative said at a town hall meeting of about 200 people Tuesday night. “The area around you is changing. Maybe that doesn’t matter. I have no dog in this fight. If you all don’t want to move the boundaries that’s fine too.”
Except for a vocal few, the majority of Avondale residents at the meeting did not seem to know how to feel about the possible annexation of neighborhoods including Katie Kerr, Forest Hills and businesses around Rio Circle – an action unanimously approved by Avondale’s Board of Commissioners on Jan. 5.
After conducting its own feasibility study, the city expects the annexation would roughly double Avondale’s population and expand its annual revenue by well over $400,000 after expenditures in its first year.
City staffers calculated property taxes, sanitation fees and stormwater fees based off tax commissioner information to come up with that $400,000 figure, City Manager Clai Brown told Decaturish. Staff did not factor in several other tax revenue streams most feasibility studies consider, opting to focus on concrete, almost guaranteed money sources.
With several other communities seeking city status in the area this year, such as Greenhaven and Stonecrest, some town hall attendees were concerned passing up this annexation could pigeonhole Avondale in the future, leaving tax money on the table. Without quick action, several residents were concerned their neighborhoods might be snatched up before they have the opportunity to join Avondale.
“Are we going to be sorry we didn’t reach out and grab things?” Drenner asked. “Changing the boundaries will change Avondale. That’s self evident. Now if you fast forward 10 years and you look at the fact that there’s no room to grow anywhere, say you’re bounded by all new cities and you wish you would have gotten that Walmart or that farmers market, those pieces that were around you, the people that are here 10 years from now may regret that.”
Still, Drenner and several town hall attendees said they’d prefer the process to slow down, giving residents more time to consider the substantial change.
Wiltshire Drive resident Jane Howe said the annexation snuck up on several residents.
“We just didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “Now we’re trying to play catch up and there’s just a lot of confusion.”
Drenner wasn’t sure how long Avondale has to act before the decision is taken out of their hands as other communities grab up nearby land.
“It could be next week, it could be next year,” she said.
But Drenner said she isn’t ready to make any decision.
“This to me is probably the hardest issue to resolve because you can’t make anyone happy on this one. You draw a line this way someone’s gonna be mad on this side, you draw a line that way someone’s going to be made on that side,” she said. “I’ve taken a pause because I don’t know how everyone feels about this and I don’t want to impose my will on you.”