You may have seen recently in the news that the City of Dunwoody obtained the parks within its boundaries from DeKalb County at minimal cost pursuant to state legislation.
The legislation that enabled this to happen was amended into a bill that I sponsored, House Bill 203 (click for more information), but not before I changed the language in ways that benefit all of us, whether or not we live in the City of Dunwoody.
The parks language in the bill does not just apply to Dunwoody. It applies to every city in DeKalb County. So, for example, if the City of Chamblee or City of Dunwoody were to annex the areas containing Murphey Candler Park or Blackburn Park, or both, that city would be able to obtain those parks from DeKalb County for the same low cost. Also, if citizens in Brookhaven ever decide that they want to form a new city, that city would get the same deal in obtaining Brookhaven Park on Peachtree Road and Ashford Park on Caldwell Drive.
This is not to say that any such incorporation or annexation is imminent. That’s a decision that will remain primarily in the hands of our neighborhoods, and also in the hands of any city governments which might become annexation partners. The bottom line is that proper maintenance of local parks is one of the reasons that local citizens choose to become part of a city.
Critics have suggested that this is stealing parks from DeKalb County and giving them to cities. I reject that notion. They’re not DeKalb County’s parks. They’re not any city’s parks. They’re public parks.
One of the provisions that I insisted on including in HB 203 is a provision that says citizens who live inside a city and those who live outside a city have to be charged the same fees, to the extent there are fees, for the use of any park that is acquired by a city pursuant to the legislation. Thus, a city can’t charge residents of unincorporated areas more for using “city” parks and recreation facilities.
Evan and I take our kids to the playground at Brook Run from time to time. We don’t live in the City of Dunwoody. After the incorporation of Dunwoody, I’ve seen firsthand how DeKalb County has allowed the park to deteriorate. It affects all of us. I am confident that the City of Dunwoody will be a much better steward of the park.
HB 203 also deals with parks bond funds. There are approximately $7.5 million dollars in general obligation bond funds (not tax funds from the county treasury) that the City of Dunwoody says were promised for improvements to Brook Run prior to the 2006 DeKalb County parks bond referendum, but DeKalb County is now holding back these funds and won’t use them for Brook Run.
HB 203 provides that, if a city can prove to the satisfaction of a Superior Court judge that county documents and the statements of county officials in the run-up to a bond referendum promised X amount of bond funds for particular projects at a particular park, and the county is holding back the funds, the city gets X dollars of the bond proceeds to use for those particular projects at that particular park.
The point is that county officials should be held to the promises they make to voters and taxpayers when seeking to win their votes in a bond referendum. This provision, too, is written to benefit other areas that may join DeKalb cities in the future.