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Chamblee annexation petition withdrawn after ‘technical deficiencies’ revealed

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Chamblee annexation petition withdrawn after ‘technical deficiencies’ revealed

Chamblee city Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.
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This story has been updated.

Chamblee, GA — The city of Chamblee announced on Dec. 11 that an annexation petition for the area around Mercer University, Embry Hills, and Fleetwood Hills has been withdrawn after “technical deficiencies” came to light.

The announcement came following an investigative report by Decaturish contributor Sara Amis that revealed that the petition may turn out to have similar problems as the ill-fated Brookhaven annexation effort earlier this year.

Brookhaven’s annexation effort was plagued with questions about the validity of the affidavits presented as part of the petition, and the petition was ultimately withdrawn following investigative reporting by Amis published in Decaturish. Four affidavits submitted as part of the Chamblee annexation petition appear to have been altered, our investigation found.

The city of Chamblee was considering an annexation application that would bring Mercer University’s Atlanta campus, the Embry Hills neighborhood and Belaire Circle into the city. Photo courtesy of the city of Chamblee.

Brookhaven and Chamblee hired the same political consulting firm, Rosetta Stone Communications, to help with gathering signatures for annexation petitions.

“The City of Chamblee has reviewed the contents in the proposed annexation application and has discovered technical deficiencies,” a press release from the city of Chamblee says. “The City has done its due diligence in examining the application and has informed the applicant. The applicant has requested to withdraw its application. The public hearing on the proposed annexation and the public hearing on the rezoning of the proposed annexation area which was previously scheduled for Dec. 14 has been canceled.”

After Chamblee’s announcement, DeKalb County released a statement on Dec. 12 noting problems with the annexation petition.

“The application does not contain the required written consent of 60 percent of electors residing within the proposed annexation area,” a county spokesperson said. “According to the list of electors as of Nov. 9, 2023, prepared and confirmed by the DeKalb County Board of Registration and Elections, there are 1,227 electors in the proposed annexation area. In examining Attachment D of the Chamblee Annexation Application, there are 565 signed ‘registered voter’ consents, or only 46.05 percent of the number of active voters in the proposed annexation area, far short of the 60 percent needed.”

The annexation effort did have support, notably from Mercer University.

Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Kellie Appel said that Mercer did not seek annexation but was approached after the petition was already underway.

“Mercer signed on to the petition as we do see some benefits of annexation, and the city of Chamblee offers services that will be beneficial to Mercer,” Appel said.

Bill Blumberg, whose name is on the petition, is the president of the Embry Hills Civic Association and says that he has supported the idea personally since the organization was approached about it last August. Blumberg says that he believes that the city of Chamblee will be able to provide better policing, parks, roads, and code enforcement than DeKalb County has been able to do.

Beyond questions about the petition itself, there is opposition from neighboring Doraville. Part of the annexation footprint around Belaire Circle extends to just half a block from Doraville’s Brook Park. Council member Stephe Koontz said that the Doraville council voted to oppose the annexation and has sent a letter to the DeKalb County Commission. .

“Fleetwood Hills has been considered part of Northwoods since the neighborhood was constructed in the 1950s. To carve this out, to split this historic neighborhood between two cities, doesn’t make sense from a geographic or service delivery standpoint,” Koontz said.

Tucker also opposed the annexation.

Tucker’s Deputy City Manager John McHenry said that Tucker opposes the annexation map because Chamblee is seeking to annex an area outside I-285 that was on Tucker’s original map submitted to the legislature when the city was formed. Additionally, McHenry said that Chamblee’s map includes a lucrative commercial district without including a nearby residential area.

Writer Sara Amis contributed most of the reporting used in this story. 

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