Some Avondale residents considering raising money for annexation studyPhoto obtained via the city of Avondale Estates website.
A group of Avondale Estates residents wants to get ahead of a proposal to annex more residents into the city before it comes up again in the Legislature.
One idea is raising private money for an independent financial feasibility study to determine the effects annexation will have on the city’s ability to provide services. Avondale’s elected officials did not pursue one, opting instead to have its staff compile the cost analysis of the city’s annexation master plan. The city staff concluded that annexation would increase the city’s annual revenue of $400,000 over expenses while doubling its population.
The city’s annexation bill, introduced by state Rep. Karla Drenner, died in the final hours of the 2015 session after an amendment removed the DeKalb Farmers Market – a key piece of commercial tax revenue – from the plan. Drenner spoke to dozens of residents on April 23 at the Avondale Pizza Cafe and said the bill’s defeat had little to do with DFM.
“What happened that day was more politics,” Drenner said. She told residents that members of the General Assembly were holding off on annexation to see if voters will approve the proposed cities of Tucker and LaVista Hills. Both cities will be on the ballot this November.
The issue of creating new cities in DeKalb is inextricably linked to annexation. It was the push to create the new cities that convinced existing cities to dust off and update long-range annexation plans. Officials in DeKalb’s cities wanted to expand city boundaries before they were absorbed into a anew city.
During the meeting, Drenner also shed new light on some of the things that went on during the 2015 session. The most controversial annexation proposal under discussion was one that would’ve brought Emory University and three DeKalb County Schools into the city of Atlanta. Drenner said the DeKalb legislative delegation changed its rules for local annexation bills, requiring the signatures of all 16 delegation members instead of nine of 16. She said that was done specifically to prevent state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, from introducing the Atlanta annexation bill. The Atlanta bill died in the Legislature, but opponents of the bill expect it to come back again, especially if LaVista Hills successfully incorporates.
Drenner also introduced parts of Decatur’s annexation bill, which also didn’t survive the session. The issue there, Drenner said, was that Decatur wanted choice commercial property but didn’t want to take more residential property with it. The bill Drenner introduced didn’t include Suburban Plaza because that wasn’t in her district. Ultimately, Decatur’s bill didn’t get enough signatures to move forward.
All of the annexation bills, including Avondale’s could come up again next year. Drenner said she would hold an Avondale annexation bill unless there’s a feasibility study, something she had recommended to the city.
Andy LaRocco, a former city commissioner, helped organize the April 23 meeting. He said a feasibility study would cost $15,000 to $20,000. LaRocco said residents need to “get organized” to help them prepare for the possibility of the annexation plan being reintroduced next year. But the fledgling organization of Avondale citizens, which doesn’t have a name, isn’t all about saying “no” to annexation, LaRocco said.
“We’re not an anti-annexation group,” LaRocco said.