Decatur annexation starting over with a ‘clean slate’

Earlier this week Decatur’s commission and school board held a two-hour discussion on annexation, with Mayor Patti Garrett proclaiming, “I think we’re starting with a clean slate.”

Decatur spent months creating an annexation map in 2014, which the 2015 General Assembly dramatically reconfigured by lopping off Suburban Plaza and the four commercial centers at North Decatur Road/Clairemont Avenue, areas long-coveted by the city.

That map died in the Senate, and in 2016 legislators didn’t consider any annexations. But ex-Decatur Mayor Bill Floyd, now director of the DeKalb Municipal Association, emphasized the General Assembly may have more of an appetite for annexation in 2017.

“It’s important to point out,” Floyd told the group, “that it’s a lot harder [for legislators] to argue against annexation if there’s some commercial/residential balance.”

City Manager Peggy Merrriss admitted that in recent years one of the “drivers” towards annexation is diversifying the city’s tax base, roughly 85 percent residential, 15 percent commercial for years.

“If we were starting a city today,” Merriss said, “Carl Vinson [Institute of Government] would not consider us viable. But they put a lot of emphasis on financial viability. While we’d like a larger commercial tax base, we also put emphasis on community, cultural and social viability.”