Annexation back in the mix in Avondale, Decatur

The annexation argument has returned to Decatur and Avondale Estates.

State legislators this week will review the cities' plans to extend their borders. The idea has been raised three times unsuccessfully since 1999, largely because the majority of businesses in the proposed annexation area along College Avenue opposes the move.

The owners haven't changed their stance, but state Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield said she is “encouraged” by talks with DeKalb’s 20 other House members who might support a vote. Ten delegation signatures are required for a House vote.

“We are getting an early start this year,” Benfield said. “I’ve been optimistic that this is the year.”

The proposal calls for the cities' borders to meet at Sam’s Crossing, with 10 properties becoming part of Decatur and 22 going to Avondale.

The push is especially controversial in Avondale, where one property owner has erected a sign that proclaims: “ANNEXATION – LEGALIZED STEALING.”

Nearly 70 business owners in the College Avenue and DeKalb Industrial Avenue areas discouraged an annexation proposal last year.

DeKalb Industrial is off the table this year, but its owners are still involved in a bid to stay out of Avondale in the future.

“Our feeling is, what they’re doing is trying to split us up,” said Helme Calfee, who owns an office building on DeKalb Industrial. “If they get College Avenue, next year they’ll be back for us.”

Avondale Mayor Ed Rieker sent an e-mail to residents two weeks ago, urging their support to counter the business owners.

Both cities would be able to square their borders with the move, eliminating a mile-long stretch of unincorporated area.

Rieker said the move is not about money. His calculations show annexation would create a $10,000 loss to DeKalb while generating $32,000 for the city.

Avondale also wants to provide better police service in the area and have more power to force the garages and small shops in the annex zone to improve their appearances, Rieker said.

“It’s gotten kind of seedy in there,” Rieker said. “It will really help us redevelop our city and downtown if we annex and have more control.”

Charles Blalock, who owns three lots in Avondale’s possible expansion, counters the city would be better served focusing on its downtown area. Many shops in the Tudor-style downtown are vacant, with few prospects for new businesses.

Blalock is convinced annexation is a land-grab to build up the tax base in a city that is at least 90-percent residential.

“They only think of us as a gateway and a cash cow, not as people who spent 25 years building up their businesses,” Blalock said.

The businesses will lobby against the proposal Monday at the state Capitol. The delegation will review the plan at its next meeting, sometime later in the week.