Borders drawn to divide LaVista Hills and Tucker

The communities of LaVista Hills and Tucker will have to share valuable retail property near Northlake Mall along the eastern edge of I-285 if they want to become cities, according to boundaries approved by state lawmakers Friday.

The map is intended to end the border dispute between the two areas as they seek approval for cityhood from the Georgia General Assembly next year.

It was passed on a 3-1 vote of the DeKalb County Cityhood Subcommittee, which “set in stone” their boundaries, said Rep. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville, the subcommittee’s chairman.

State lawmakers won’t consider different borders along the interstate, but the map can be adjusted to allow for Brookhaven’s approved annexation of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Executive Park, as well as other potential annexations such as Druid Hills joining the city of Atlanta.

“I wish I was Santa Claus, and I wish I could give everyone what they want, but as you all know that’s not possible,” Brockway said before the vote. “I hope that this map allows both groups to move forward, understanding that they didn’t get everything they wanted.”

The map gives Northlake Mall to LaVista Hills and the Northlake Festival Shopping Center, across the street, to Tucker. LaVista Road would be the dividing line between the two cities. Residents living near Spaghetti Junction would become part of LaVista Hills.

Leaders of both cityhood movements said they could live with the map and would push for the Legislature to sign off on it. Then residents in the affected areas would vote on whether to incorporate.

Mary Kay Woodworth, the co-chairwoman of LaVista Hills Yes, wants to move ahead with incorporation but said dividing the Northlake Mall retail area would cause problems for policing and land use planning.

“It splits the business community,” she said. “We’re going to see how we can make it work.”

Michelle Penkava of Tucker 2015 said the compromise map provides the area with a path toward cityhood after squabbles over borders scuttled proposals in the Legislature earlier this year.

“Our hearts are with those who are rejoicing and those who are being pulled out of their community,” Penkava said. “We’re looking forward to moving ahead.”

Both potential cities will cover about 20 square miles, but LaVista Hills would include nearly twice as many residents as Tucker.

LaVista Hills would have a population of 64,654 people, and Tucker would be home to 34,742 residents.

Marjorie Snook, who lives near Northlake Mall and is forming a group to oppose incorporation, said cityhood won’t solve DeKalb’s corruption problems. Former DeKalb Commissioner Elaine Boyer resigned in August after pleading guilty to federal fraud charges, and suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis faces charges that he extorted campaign contributions from county contractors.

“These new cities just add a new group of politicians to the mix. Adding more politicians in response to corruption is ridiculous,” said Snook, whose home is within LaVista Hills’ map. “Most of the people inside the perimeter don’t want a city of LaVista Hills.”

The lawmaker who voted against the map, Rep. Howard Mosby, D-Atlanta, said he a subcommittee shouldn’t have decided where communities begin and end.

“We’re trying to solve these issues with a hammer rather than letting the communities work it out,” Mosby said.

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