Cities across DeKalb look to grow their borders

Tucker residents lined up to elect their first city government leaders at The Ministry Center of First Baptist Church of Tucker on March 1. Tucker and existing cities may soon seek to expand. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Tucker residents lined up to elect their first city government leaders at The Ministry Center of First Baptist Church of Tucker on March 1. Tucker and existing cities may soon seek to expand. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Cities in DeKalb County could be spreading out soon.

Atlanta, Chamblee, Decatur, Clarkston, Stone Mountain, Avondale Estates and other cities may expand through annexations of nearby unincorporated areas.

City leaders have already started discussions about their future growth, and they may present plans to the Georgia General Assembly during the 2017 legislative session. No neighborhood could be annexed without the approval of area residents and businesses.

“All of those cities’ annexation plans are very modest. It’s not a huge land grab,” said Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry. “Anyone who cares about the future of the county would say it makes sense for cities to be economically sustainable.”

When cities expand, they often add businesses to their tax base and bring in residents who want more local control of government services. Cities generally handle a variety of services, including police, parks and planning.

No annexations were proposed this year as state lawmakers weighed whether to allow referendums to be held on forming the cities of Stonecrest and Greenhaven in south DeKalb.

Stonecrest will appear on the ballot in November, but lawmakers rejected Greenhaven amid significant community opposition. Eight cities have been founded in metro Atlanta over the last decade.

Now that cityhood creation has been addressed, annexations may be taken up next year at the Georgia Capitol.

The idea of expanding the city of Atlanta east into Druid Hills could move forward in a few neighborhoods, but annexations probably wouldn't cover the entire community, said Anne Wallace, president of the Druid Hills Civic Association.

Many Druid Hills residents don’t want to lose the property tax breaks that senior citizens currently receive in DeKalb, and some have resisted proposals to move county public schools into Atlanta Public Schools, Wallace said.

“We’re more focused now on trying to help the county get in a better state and being more active,” Wallace said. “Until the city of Atlanta has something comparable to DeKalb County, we’ll get a lot of pushback from our senior citizens.”

In central DeKalb, a group of residents tried to join Chamblee this year after voters narrowly defeated the proposed city of LaVista Hills last year. The Chamblee annexation idea may be revived.

“The issue isn’t going to go away,” said Ben Schackleford, a resident who promoted the Chamblee annexation. “DeKalb County doesn’t do a decent job. … There’s no real alternative at this point other than cityhood or annexation.”

The incoming city of Tucker, which voters approved in November, may seek to add the Northlake Mall area to its map. The mall was previously drawn into LaVista Hills' proposed borders.

In addition, annexations could be sought in Brookhaven, Lithonia and Pine Lake.

“They’ve all expressed interest,” said Bill Floyd, executive director for the DeKalb Municipal Association. “It boils down to what got us in this situation in the first place, and that was neglect from DeKalb County officials of certain areas. That’s what starts people looking at becoming cities.”

In Other News