Chamblee annexation supporters tell county officials they want better servicesDeKalb County Commissioner Robert Patrick held a community meeting Nov. 30 to discuss Chamblee’s proposed annexation of the area around Mercer University along with the Embry Hills and Fleetwood Hills neighborhoods, and to hear comments from the public. Photo by Sara Amis
Chamblee, GA — Chamblee annexation supporters said they are looking for better services than the county currently provides.
DeKalb County Commissioner Robert Patrick held a community meeting Nov. 30 to discuss Chamblee’s proposed annexation of the area around Mercer University along with the Embry Hills and Fleetwood Hills neighborhoods, and to hear comments from the public.
Deputy County Attorney Matthew Welch, the county’s Chief of Operations Zach Williams, and DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond were also in attendance at the Nov. 30 meeting.
Supporters of the petition who spoke said they were mainly motivated by perceived neglect by the county and the belief that they will receive better services from the city of Chamblee.
Bill Blumberg, whose name is on the petition and who is also the president of the Embry Hills Civic Association, said that for him this is about finding someone who will provide the services that the community needs.
“I can’t tell you the last time I’ve seen a police officer sitting on Chamblee-Tucker [Road],” Blumberg said.
Robert Burek, another annexation supporter, said that he understood what police go through but agreed that county services in general were lacking. Burek asked rhetorically if residents were going to get a refund when their trash isn’t picked up by the county.
More than one commenter brought up promises that were made by the county when Chamblee-Tucker Road was widened in the 1990s but were never followed through.
Commissioner Patrick acknowledged the problems and said that he ran for county commission in 2020 because he was concerned about services in the area.
“When I drove through this area as a Doraville city councilman, it looked like it had been abandoned,” Patrick said.
When asked why things haven’t changed, Patrick said that it takes time to solve problems that have built up over decades. Patrick also pointed out that the results visible in Chamblee have been in process since 2003.
Those who spoke in opposition to the annexation were mainly motivated by concerns about the process and disdain for the 60% method used.
The 60% method requires that 60% of property owners by acreage and 60% of eligible voters must support annexation. If those thresholds are reached, a city can annex an area by ordinance rather than putting it on the ballot as a referendum.
Both Welch, the county attorney, and resident Russell Spornberger noted that the petition asserts that more than 60% of property owners have signed affirmative affidavits, but no actual counts of acreage are included.
Spornberger said that several affidavits are either incomplete, duplicated, or not relevant, but that even if all of them are included, by his count they only represent 58% of the annexation area, not the required 60%.
Spornberger said that the affidavits from voters supporting the petition have similar problems, and that even if all the potentially questionable ones are included, they still only make up 48% of registered voters.
Neighboring cities including Tucker and Doraville also oppose 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.
Some who were supportive or more ambivalent toward annexation also disliked the process.
Rebecca Perkins said that she signed the petition because she saw advantages to being in Chamblee. However, she also felt that the process was not transparent and in particular the public wasn’t adequately informed about the fact that the city hired a consulting firm to initiate the petition.
Jane Goodwin said that she was not adamantly opposed to annexation, but was concerned that the city council forwarded the petition the same day they received it without verifying the signatures. Goodwin added that she was not sure that Chamblee has the budget to provide services to that large of an area.
Welch said that the county’s role was to make sure that the regulations set out in state law were followed, and that the county could challenge the annexation on a very limited set of grounds.
CEO Thurmond said that if the petition does not meet qualifications, the county will fight it.
“But if it passes, I’m still your CEO,” Thurmond said.
Want Decaturish delivered to your inbox every day? Sign up for our free newsletter by clicking here.
If you appreciate our work on this story, please become a paying supporter. For as little as $6 a month, you can help us keep you in the loop about your community.