Avondale Estates paying for annexation feasibility studyPhoto obtained via the city of Avondale Estates website.
The city of Avondale Estates will pay the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia to study its revised annexation map.
During a special called meeting on Nov. 4 city commissioners approved paying $11,000 to CVI. Unlike previous versions of the map, Avondale’s new annexation proposal does not include the DeKalb Farmers Market. It does include commercial properties in the Rio Circle area, and residential areas along Rockbridge Road, as well as the former Avondale High School and the American Legion.
The city’s previous 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. Avondale’s elected officials did not pursue an independent feasibility study prior to Drenner filing the bill, 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.
CVI has been used by groups seeking to form new cities to determine if they will generate enough tax revenue to provide services to new residents.
City Manager Clai Brown said the study is expected to be finished by February. Mayor Jonathan Elmore said leaving DeKalb Farmers Market out of the plan might give it a better shot at getting passed in the Legislature.
“We felt like that may have been a major factor in it not passing last time,” Elmore said. “Yes (DFM owner Robert) Blazer was pretty vocal that he doesn’t want to be in any jurisdiction and so we scaled back our plan to be something that we feel like is more palpable with legislators.”
But many commercial property owners along East Ponce de Leon, DeKalb Industrial Way, Laredo Drive, Pine Street and Rio Circle signed a petition to go into Decatur when the possibility of annexation arose last year.
Elmore thinks property owners will be more receptive this time around.
“There were some property owners that were more vocal than others, but we will be approaching them and selling them on the idea they’re better off with us, that we provide better services, we’re more business friendly,” Elmore said.
One of the more vocal property owners was Decatur Self Storage owner Mike Easterwood. Decaturish asked him if he had changed his mind about being annexed into Avondale.
“No, I haven’t changed my mind,” Easterwood said. “If they’re doing the same thing they were doing, then I’m doing the same thing I’m doing. They haven’t changed. They’re not interested in what we’re interested in. They’re interested in what they’re interested in.”
Easterwood said the property owners are still seeking annexation into Decatur. Publicly, Decatur has refused to consider the petition on the grounds that it’s in Avondale’s map.
“Some of the city commissioners were in favor of it when we were trying to do it the last time,” Easterwood said. “Supposedly there’s been some verbal agreement that they’re not going to do it. If Avondale wants us, they’re not going to get involved, but they don’t have that agreement now. (Jim) Baskett is not the mayor anymore. I was told that he told Avondale that if they didn’t get us the last time, he’s going to get us. I don’t know what that means, but he’s not the mayor.”
Baskett is still the mayor, but not much longer. He opted not to run for re-election to the at-large commission seat this year and will be replaced by Commissioner-elect Tony Powers.
When Decaturish asked Baskett about Easterwood’s comments, the mayor said the city is still pondering its annexation plans.
“We will be reassessing our annexation plan in the next few weeks,” he said. “Last year we were very consistent as we talked to our legislators, the folks on Rio Circle and the Avondale leadership: as long as Rio Circle was in the Avondale map it would not be in ours.”