Community meeting on proposed Brookhaven annexation draws crowdAbout 200 people gathered at the Central DeKalb Senior Center to discuss a proposed Brookhaven annexation petition on Tuesday, June 27. Photo by Sara Amis.
This story has been updated.
Brookhaven, GA — DeKalb County Commissioner Michelle Long Spears and District 6 Commissioner Ted Terry hosted a June 27 community meeting to discuss a potential annexation of the Toco Hills and Biltmore Acres neighborhoods into Brookhaven.
The room was crowded, with close to 200 attendees lining the walls and spilling out into the foyer.
Spears opened by saying that the goal was to answer questions and arm attendees with facts.
“I myself am a resident of Brookhaven. I love and enjoy Brookhaven,” Spears said.
However, Spears said that she has concerns about how signature collection for the petition was conducted and feels that the annexation process has been rushed.
The area being considered for annexation is border by Briarcliff Road, North Druid Hills Road and Lavista Road in unincorporated DeKalb County.
Also present to answer questions were DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond, Director of Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Affairs Chuck Ellis, Public Works Director Rick Lemke, Interim Planning Director Cedric Hudson, DeKalb Chief of Police Mirtha Ramos, and DeKalb Chief Operating Officer Zach Williams.
Other elected officials including State Senator Elena Parent (D – Senate District 42), District 7 Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson, and Brookhaven City Council Member John Funny were also in attendance.
The annexation petition uses the 60% method, meaning that it requires 60% of electors and 60% of landowners by acreage within the proposed annexation area to sign a petition requesting annexation. The annexing city must approve the annexation by ordinance, but it does not require a referendum.
The area included in the petition represents $279 million in assessed tax value, and if annexed by the city of Brookhaven will create a $2 million loss in annual tax revenue for the county.
Spears said that the petitioner listed in the annexation packet is Howard Ginsburg. Ginsburg also sent out a letter inviting residents to attend a public meeting on June 15 related to the annexation. At the meeting, Ginsburg denied organizing the petition effort and claimed not to know who did.
In his remarks, Thurmond alluded to the lack of clarity about who originated the petition.
“Transparency is key. If it’s the right thing to do, you don’t have to hide it. If it’s the right thing to do, you can own up that you’re doing it,” Thurmond said.
“As government, our job is to protect your rights,” Thurmond said, adding that the county had an obligation to vet the petition and verify the accuracy of the claims made in it.
Residents expressed concerns about how annexation would affect emergency services and planned county projects in the area.
Another concern was the creation of islands of unincorporated DeKalb County surrounded by Brookhaven, and that annexation would separate the Toco Hill commercial district from some of the surrounding neighborhoods.
“My neighborhood will become an island. It’s evident that the city only wanted the Toco Hills shopping center,” resident Alice Wright said.
Wright along with several others said that she was originally in favor of being annexed into Brookhaven, but became concerned about the way that the annexation has been conducted.
Veronica Sciacca said that she was approached in October 2022 about annexation by a lawyer named David Baker, who told her that he was working for the city of Brookhaven. Sciacca said that originally she was very much in favor of the idea of being part of Brookhaven and encouraged her neighbors to sign the petition, but she found out recently that her house is not included.
“I was in shock,” said Sciacca.
Sciacca added that she began looking at the petition packet, and of 200 petition pages she printed out, 77 of them are not notarized correctly.
“They should throw these right out,” Sciacca said.
The Rev. Megan Johnson of Clairmont Presbyterian said that the church was not asked about annexation and was concerned about being moved into a different police jurisdiction. Johnson said that the church hosts basketball programs for about 500 children and has built up a strong relationship with the DeKalb County Police Department.
Johnson also said that there is a social justice aspect to the proposed annexation in that $2 million less in the budget reduces resources for the rest of the county.
In response to a question from resident Chris Hester, Thurmond said that he has yet to have a meeting about the proposed annexation with anyone from Brookhaven.
“I look forward to it,” Thurmond said.
DeKalb County Attorney Viviane Ernstes said that many of the residents’ concerns about the petition signatures, zoning, the annexation map, and unincorporated islands were all questions for the city of Brookhaven to answer.
Ernstes encouraged residents to attend a public hearing being held by the city of Brookhaven on June 28 and voice their concerns there. The meeting will be held at the Brookhaven City Hall at 6:30 p.m.
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