Avondale Estates considering annexation optionsPhoto obtained via the city of Avondale Estates website.
Avondale Estates is once again exploring its options regarding annexation.
According to Second Century Avondale, a citizens group that closely monitors city politics, the City Commission is considering a new feasibility study on a map that may include businesses on Rio Circle, the Forrest Hills and Decatur Terrace neighborhoods, Avondale High School and the Museum School. The City Commission discussed annexation at its Sept. 21 work session.
The city’s goal, Second Century Avondale says, would be to have the plan ready for the 2018 Legislative session but also to be ready in case annexation is discussed in the 2017 Legislative Session.
“I think the next steps for us would be deciding on that amended map and do we want to do a feasibility study,” Commissioner Brian Fisher said during the meeting.
Fisher noted that a proposed city of Stonecrest is on the ballot in November, and there are still efforts to create another south DeKalb County city, Greenhaven.
“No one’s made a move yet,” Mayor Jonathan Elmore said. “But I think everybody is probably going to be proposing some level of annexation, because anything that didn’t pass last year got thrown in the trash can, so it’s kind of starting anew on this session.”
“My opinion is that we need to be prepared for this session, if something were to happen, to protect what we feel like should be a part of Avondale, but in order to do it right with the proper amount of disclosure, conversation and so forth, you would need to start the process this year but have scheduled meetings over the course of a year to be ready for the next legislative session in January of 2018,” Fisher said. “But I do think it’s incumbent upon the city to be prepared this year.”
The city may consider a resolution about a feasibility study at its next regular meeting on Sept. 26. It begins at 6:30 p.m. and is open to the public.
Avondale’s previous annexation efforts have run into trouble. Plans to annex more property into the city whipped up a controversy in 2014 when residents found out an annexation bill had been filed without their knowledge. Former mayor Ed Rieker quickly resigned after the town caught wind of the annexation plan and confronted him about it. Rieker said he was resigning to take a teaching position at Emory.
Earlier this year, Avondale Estates City Commission altered its map after the American Legion objected to the inclusion of Post 66. Commercial property owners in the Rio Circle previously asked to be removed from the plan. The removal of the DeKalb Farmers Market killed the city’s annexation bill in the 2015 Legislative session.
Avondale’s discussion stands out because it includes some concrete details about the city’s intentions. Most other cities are keeping their cards close to the vest.
While Avondale tries to get a handle on its annexation map, other cities may – or may not be – moving forward with annexation bills of their own. Secrecy continues to prevail in annexation discussions. In June, Decatur officials said all annexation plans are a clean slate. In July, an annexation meeting called by the DeKalb Municipal Association that included representatives from most DeKalb County cities ended an hour early without any substantive discussion about how the plans will move forward. Members of the audience were not allowed to give input or ask questions during the meeting.
Emory University is pursuing its own annexation into the city of Atlanta, along with Children’s Health Care of Atlanta and the Centers for Disease Control. At a recent community meeting, the man leading that effort – former Emory Executive Vice President Michael Mandl – declined to answer questions from Decaturish.com’s sibling publication, Atlanta Loop, about Emory’s proposal.
Annexation has an enormous potential to affect residents of DeKalb County. It could increase taxes, increase the costs of providing services and, in the case of Atlanta annexation discussions, affect where children attend school.
Editor’s note: Portions of this report were compiled from an audio recording of the Avondale Estates City Commission’s Sept. 21 work session.