Cityhood Poll Results & Town Hall Meeting

March 27, 2011

Please join me, State Senator Fran Millar, and State Representative Tom Taylor for a town hall meeting on cityhood and annexation this Tuesday, March 29, at 7:00 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall of Chamblee United Methodist Church, 4147 Chamblee Dunwoody Road.

I have received numerous questions regarding exactly what neighborhoods are being considered for incorporation into a new municipality or annexation into an existing one.

Click here to see a PDF map. The neighborhoods shaded in yellow are neighborhoods that could be annexed into Dunwoody or Chamblee, or could be joined with the neighborhoods shaded in green to form a new City of Brookhaven. If the neighborhoods shaded in yellow were to join Dunwoody or Chamblee, then the neighborhoods shaded in green nevertheless could form a City of Brookhaven.

Please keep in mind that none of the boundaries reflected on this map are etched in stone. I drew up the map to make it easier to discuss the neighborhoods that could be involved, but the map is subject to change to meet our community’s needs. I will discuss this map in greater detail at Tuesday’s meeting.

Recent discussion of the possibility of cityhood or annexation for the neighborhoods surrounding Murphey Candler Park, West Nancy Creek Drive, and Silver Lake prompted me to commission a reliable public opinion poll of registered voters in these neighborhoods.

The poll included 227 registered voters who vote at Montgomery Elementary School, Ashford Parkside, and St. Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church. Nobody was left out of the pool of registered voters that was sampled. Unlike the various computer surveys that are circulating around these neighborhoods, it was impossible to vote multiple times by deleting the “cookies” in a web browser.

The results of the poll reveal overwhelming support for legislation that would give Murphey Candler, West Nancy Creek, and Silver Lake residents the opportunity to choose whether or not to join a city.

When asked whether residents of these neighborhoods would favor or oppose legislation that would enable them to choose whether to annex into a neighboring city (Dunwoody or Chamblee) or create a new city, 63.5% responded that they would favor such legislation, 18.0% would oppose it, and 18.5% have no opinion.

When asked to choose between annexing into Dunwoody, annexing into Chamblee, creating a new City of Brookhaven, or remaining in unincorporated DeKalb County, residents in these neighborhoods gave an interesting response that merits further exploration: 30.8% prefer a new City of Brookhaven, 19.0% prefer to join Dunwoody, 10.3% prefer to join Chamblee, 21.6% prefer to remain unincorporated, and 18.3% have no opinion.

Two things are evident from these results: (1) approximately three-fifths of residents in the Murphey Candler, West Nancy Creek, and Silver Lake neighborhoods support further exploration of some kind of municipal solution, and (2) approximately one-fifth of residents oppose continuing this discussion and would prefer to remain in unincorporated DeKalb.

With the significant level of interest in a new City of Brookhaven, I am going to prepare a skeletal charter for such a city and introduce it prior to the conclusion of this year’s session of the General Assembly, which will end in less than a month.

This is important because it will enable us to comply with a rule of the House Governmental Affairs Committee which says that legislation to create a new municipality must be introduced in the first (odd-numbered) year of a two-year legislative term and cannot be passed until the second (even-numbered) year of the term. This will make the creation of a new City of Brookhaven a possibility for 2012 instead of having to wait three years until 2014.

Of course, the only way there will be a City of Brookhaven is if interest in cityhood exists south of Windsor Parkway in Historic Brookhaven and in neighborhoods east of Peachtree Road such as Brookhaven Heights, Brookhaven Fields, Ashford Park, and Drew Valley.

It is important to reiterate that living in a city does not add “more taxes” to your property tax bill. To the contrary, the existing “Unincorporated District Tax” line item would be transferred from the county to the new or annexing city. The city, in turn, likely would do a more efficient job of delivering services with these tax dollars. That has been the experience in both Chamblee and Dunwoody.

We deserve a choice. We don’t have to remain under the thumb of a county government that chooses to divert funds from providing crime scene investigators for burglaries and car break-ins so that the $150,000 salary of a do-nothing bureaucrat can be paid (follow the links for recent AJC articles). This $150,000 could be used to pay some police officers. Cities like Chamblee and Dunwoody routinely make decisions that avoid top-heavy administration and invest their tax dollars in ground-level resources that directly benefit local neighborhoods.

I look forward to continuing this conversation and hope to see you on Tuesday.


Cityhood = Better Services, Same or Lower Taxes

March 14, 2011

I received almost 100 e-mails in response to the message I sent out last week regarding House Bill 428 (click for more information), a bill that would create a “path to annexation” for the neighborhoods around Murphey Candler Park, West Nancy Creek Drive, and Silver Lake to join either Chamblee or Dunwoody. Such an annexation would require a resolution of the city council and a referendum of the voters who reside in the area proposed to be annexed.

Those e-mails expressed support by a margin of 3-to-1 in favor of exploring cityhood options for our community. A surprising number of residents also expressed interest in the creation of a new City of Brookhaven. I am open to this option, as well.

I am in the process of conducting a wider telephone survey and will publish those results next week.

HB 428 has accomplished its goal: to kick off a community conversation about the future of our North DeKalb neighborhoods. The bill passed the House Governmental Affairs Committee last week, but I plan to hold it until the 2012 legislative session so that we can continue the conversation that has been started. In the interim, the legislation will be fine-tuned to suit our community’s needs.

I wish to take this opportunity to correct a false perception that some citizens have regarding cityhood, namely that it is “another layer of government” which necessarily causes “higher taxes.”

Citizens in the City of Dunwoody have a slightly lower tax burden than those of us in unincorporated DeKalb, but receive better services. To quote Rick Callihan, the proprietor of the Dunwoody Talk Blog, in a column he wrote this week for the Dunwoody Reporter: “There was very little support from the West Nancy Creek or Murphey Candler areas to join Dunwoody a few years ago. People inside ‘285’ were concerned about the possibility of increased taxes and did not possess the same strong desire to be part of a city. Ironically, their taxes are now higher than what we pay as residents of Dunwoody.”

Taxes in the City of Chamblee are only slightly higher than in unincorporated DeKalb. If you’re over age 65 in Chamblee, you pay no property taxes whatsoever for city services. Chamblee is considering cutting its millage rate this year. Their services are better, too.

What do I mean by “better services”? Let’s consider community policing. First, there’s the anecdotal evidence. If you drive around the Murphey Candler, West Nancy Creek, and Silver Lake neighborhoods, it’s unlikely that you’ll run across a DeKalb County police cruiser. By contrast, it’s a rare day that you’ll drive around Dunwoody or Chamblee without seeing at least one police cruiser.

This anecdotal evidence is borne out by data. Prior to Dunwoody’s incorporation, the area within its current city limits contributed approximately $13.1 million of DeKalb County’s annual police budget. In return, DeKalb placed one or two active patrols in Dunwoody on any given shift. In the year after its incorporation, the new City of Dunwoody’s entire annual police budget was approximately $5.1 million. For this amount, they were able to run at least seven active patrols per shift.

Cities are not another layer of government. If a city provides a service, that service is not provided by the county. It’s an either-or situation. Sometimes a city will contract with the county for certain services, as is the case with sanitation in Dunwoody. However, a well-managed city will keep costs down by providing those services that it can furnish more efficiently than the county, while contracting for those services that the county provides more efficiently. It’s the best of both worlds.

Lastly, cityhood means that your elected representatives will live in or near your neighborhood, rather than clear across the county. The elected officials in your “local government” would be exactly that: local. It says something about the scale of our “local” DeKalb County Government that everyone in the Murphey Candler, West Nancy Creek, and Silver Lake neighborhoods lives closer to their State Representative (and State Senator, for that matter) than any county commissioner. A city would bring this to an end.

From now through the 2012 legislative session, I plan to continue this conversation, neighborhood by neighborhood. I already have scheduled two neighborhood meetings — with the Murphey Candler Homeowners Association and Byrnwyck Community Association — to discuss cityhood. Please let me know at [email protected] or (404) 441-0583 if you would like to schedule such a meeting.

In addition, I have organized a community-wide meeting on cityhood and annexation to be held on Tuesday, March 29, at 7:00 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall of Chamblee United Methodist Church, 4147 Chamblee Dunwoody Road. I hope to see you there.

Our neighboring cities are more efficient, furnish better services, and because they are conservatively managed, enjoy a similar or lower tax burden compared to what we pay. Citizens have made it clear that they’re interested in exploring municipal options for our community. I look forward to continuing this conversation.


HB 428 Paves a Path to Possible Cityhood

March 8, 2011

As your State Representative, I am committed to increasing your voice in local government and to helping provide the highest quality governance at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer. That is why I have introduced a piece of legislation, House Bill 428, that will create a path for the unincorporated neighborhoods around Murphey Candler Park, West Nancy Creek Drive, and Silver Lake to join one of our adjacent municipalities, either Chamblee or Dunwoody.

Presently, these neighborhoods exist as an “unincorporated peninsula” of land sandwiched between the City of Dunwoody to the north, the City of Chamblee to the east, and the City of Sandy Springs to the west. There is only one major arterial road into this area from the rest of unincorporated DeKalb: Ashford Dunwoody Road.

The purpose of HB 428 is to kick off a community conversation about possible avenues to the incorporation of our neighborhoods. Click here to read the version of HB 428 that will be presented on Tuesday to a subcommittee of the House Governmental Affairs Committee.

The version of the bill that was originally introduced only applied to Dunwoody, but that was based upon my own incorrect perception that Chamblee – having recently completed an annexation of Huntley Hills and other neighborhoods east of Chamblee Dunwoody Road – would not be interested in undertaking any further annexations any time soon. I had a productive conversation with Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson in which he made clear that it’s possible Chamblee could consider further annexation. So, the bill has been changed accordingly.

HB 428 will allow for adjacent municipalities to annex neighborhoods in an “unincorporated peninsula” (an unincorporated area that is 75% or more surrounded by cities) after the adoption of a city council resolution and the passage of a referendum by the citizens in the unincorporated area. In other words, there is absolutely no scenario in which your neighborhood would be annexed into a neighboring city before you receive all of the facts about the annexation and are given the opportunity to cast your vote at the ballot box.

The key annexation procedure that HB 428 does change is DeKalb County’s unilateral veto power over the ability of our neighborhoods to be annexed into Chamblee or Dunwoody via this simple “resolution and referendum” method.

As the Dunwoody Crier has noted, my interest in annexation is driven by “increasing discontent with DeKalb County Government: rising tax bills, fewer services, inefficient government, and a lack of confidence that things are going to get better at the county.”

Police response times in Chamblee and Dunwoody are far lower than those in unincorporated DeKalb. Dunwoody is planning major improvements to their local parks. Chamblee and Dunwoody are both conservatively managed and are experiencing budget surpluses. And in stark contrast to CEO Burrell Ellis’ constant drumbeat for higher property taxes, Chamblee is considering cutting its millage rate this year.

It simply is not true that incorporation into a city necessarily means that your property taxes will go up. Many cities are actually able to deliver better services and a lower tax burden than can be found in nearby unincorporated areas.

Another option that might be worth exploring is the incorporation of a new municipality altogether, perhaps a City of Brookhaven that could reach as far south as Buford Highway or even I-85. Of course, such an option would require interest from neighborhoods south of Windsor Parkway such as Historic Brookhaven, Ashford Park, Brookhaven Heights, Brookhaven Fields, and Drew Valley.

If citizens are interested, I’m willing to explore a broader City of Brookhaven. It would require a separate piece of legislation that cannot be passed until 2014 at the earliest, which would give us plenty of time to thoroughly explore this option.

HB 428 is not an actual annexation plan of any sort. No annexation of any neighborhoods by either Chamblee or Dunwoody is imminent.

The latest version of HB 428 will make it clear that any annexation cannot involve the “cherry picking” of large-scale commercial property such as the Perimeter Summit development on the south side of I-285, adjacent to Dunwoody. This is because another provision of law that is applicable to HB 428 requires any such annexation to include territory that “is subdivided into lots and tracts such that at least 60 percent of the total acreage consists of lots and tracts five acres or less in size and such that at least 60 percent of the total number of lots and tracts are one acre or less in size.”

HB 428 is a means of opening up our community’s options. Having options is never a bad thing.

Please forward this e-mail to your neighbors, particularly if you live in the neighborhoods around Murphey Candler Park, West Nancy Creek Drive, and Silver Lake. If citizens would like to stay informed about the prospect of annexation or a new city in North DeKalb and are not on my e-mail list, they should e-mail me at [email protected] and I will add them to my e-mail list. E-mail me, too, with your thoughts on this issue. I look forward to hearing from you.

I will announce a community meeting about cityhood and annexation in the near future.


Street Closures in Brookhaven & Chamblee

October 1, 2010

On Sunday, October 3, the Atlanta 13.1 half-marathon will close down several streets around the Brookhaven MARTA Station, Oglethorpe University, Blackburn Park, and Keswick Park. Please click here for a turn-by-turn list of the affected streets and click here for a map. For more information about the race and related events, please click here.


Frosty Caboose: Take Your Kids Here!

September 13, 2010

The Frosty Caboose is outstanding! It’s an ice cream shop contained in a real train car, a red caboose, located adjacent to the train tracks in Downtown Chamblee. Their address is 5435 Peachtree Road.

If you have kids and haven’t been to the Frosty Caboose, I encourage you to give it a whirl. They serve Greenwood ice cream, which is made locally in Chamblee. After the Jacobs family gets their ice cream, Jonah and Eli like to climb all over the train car. That’s part of the experience for the kids. You can also sit and watch the freight trains and MARTA trains go by.

This is not a paid advertisement. We just really like the place. It’s off the beaten path, so I thought I’d tell you about it. For more information, please visit FrostyCaboose.com.


Taste of Chamblee

August 20, 2010

The annual Taste of Chamblee festival is this Saturday, August 21, from 11:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. in Downtown Chamblee. Click here for more information.


A Parks Bill for Everyone

July 10, 2010

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.


Chamblee Annexation & Local Governance Meeting

January 16, 2009

This Monday, January 19, the state legislators from North DeKalb will be holding a town hall meeting for residents of Huntley Hills, Gainsborough, and Sexton Woods, as well as the North Brookhaven neighborhoods around Murphey Candler Park, West Nancy Creek Drive, Harts Mill Road, and Silver Lake, concerning local governance and the City of Chamblee’s proposal to annex certain neighborhoods. This meeting will be at 7:00 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall of Chamblee United Methodist Church, 4147 Chamblee Dunwoody Road.


Trifecta of Community Events

September 8, 2008

This is just a friendly “heads up” about three community meetings and events occurring in the near future.

The first is Tuesday’s DeKalb County Planning Commission meeting to review the Ashkouti Development proposal to build a 385-unit mega project that would raze two of the single-family homes on the cul-de-sac at the end of North Holly Lane in the Merry Hills neighborhood.

The second is an organizational meeting this Sunday for the Ashford Alliance, the umbrella community association for the neighborhoods around Murphey Candler Park, Nancy Creek, and Silver Lake.

The third is a fun “Open Mic Night” sponsored by the Chamblee Arts Alliance later this month.

A copy of the notice I received about each event is found below.

1. FROM THE MERRY HILLS HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION:

As you all know the Ashkouti Development Co. is trying to gain approval for a 385 unit project on North Druid Hills Road. Gaining approval is a three step process. Step one took place the other week when the Community Council denied their application. The next step will be on Tuesday Sept. 9th when the DeKalb Planning Commission will be reviewing their request. After the Planning Commission it will go before the Board of Commissioners. Once again our presence at the Planning Commission next week is of great importance. Although they were denied by the community council, that in no way guarantees what the Planning Commission will decide. Therefore, a strong showing from the community will send a loud and clear message to our elected officials. I therefore respectfully suggest that all who are able to attend do so. Details as follows:

Tuesday September 9 th – 6:30 PM
Dekalb County Planning Commission
Auditorium in the Maloof Building
1300 Commerce Drive
Decatur

2. FROM THE ASHFORD ALLIANCE COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION:

I just wanted to make you aware that the Ashford Alliance Community Association is having a meeting that is open to our neighborhoods to discuss and receive your feedback on how the organization can best strengthen our voice on important issues impacting our homes, neighborhoods and this community. The purpose of this Sunday’s meeting is to ensure everyone has the ability to have a voice through the Ashford Alliance Community Association so that these issues can continue to be addressed effectively for the entire community.

The meeting will take place:

This Sunday, September 14, 2008
D’Youville Club House
4148 D’Youville Trace
3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

The D’Youville neighborhood is located directly across the street from Chamblee Methodist Church on Chamblee Dunwoody Road.

Our DeKalb County District 1 Commissioner Elaine Boyer and Bob Lundsten, longtime Board Member of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association and DeKalb County Board of Zoning Appeals will be special guests. Each of them can impart a valuable perspective on some of the important issues coming our way which necessitate the need to have a strong community voice. They will also offer some insight into how some other civic associations in DeKalb County have grown and strengthened their voices.

Below are a few observations I have made which reinforce the need to engage the issues and consider the impacts to our property, neighborhoods, schools, parks and infrastructure in a community wide forum like the Ashford Alliance Community Association:

-The City of Dunwoody transitions into operation in December 2008 and they will be defining land use, transportation and growth policies which impact our neighborhoods and quality of life;

-DeKalb County will be undertaking to revise their Zoning Ordinance beginning some time in the next 6 months;

-Neighborhoods from Huntley Hills to Keswick Park and all the way to Ashford Dunwoody Road on the west and Harts Mill Road as a northern boundary are considering annexing into the City of Chamblee;

-DeKalb County will have a new CEO beginning in January 2009;

-The General Assembly is likely to take up transportation funding in the 2009 legislative session;

-The Cities of Doraville, Chamblee, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs and DeKalb County all have significant growth policies for the areas on the periphery of our neighborhoods and our community;

-Redevelopment and in-fill housing continue to occur at increased rates in our immediate neighborhoods and community, notwithstanding current slow to moderate growth in the economy as a whole;

-We have a new substation and Georgia Power may not be done looking in our community for new locations for additional substations;

-Our schools have recently transitioned and are experiencing increased enrollment, increasing traffic, pedestrian and neighborhood impacts;

-Our private schools are looking at changing facilities to keep pace with other private school facilities in the Atlanta Metro Area.

I’m sure you all have more observations of impacts and issues and hope that you share them with your neighbors through the Ashford Alliance Community Association.

I hope you consider these issues and find the time in what I know are very hectic family, work and community packed schedules to participate in the AACA when you can and attend this Sunday’s meeting.

3. FROM THE CHAMBLEE ARTS ALLIANCE:

Poets, Writers, Singers, Comedians, Politicians!

Open Mic Night
9/23/08
Tuesday 7:30 – 8:30 pm
At Get Coffee
5336 Peachtree Road, Chamblee 30341 (at Pierce)
678.580.2263

Meet your neighbors and fellow artists. Bring your biz cards and network.
To schedule a 5 minute slot, contact Brian Baker, 770.986.0907 or [email protected]


Taste of Chamblee & Garden Tour

May 29, 2008

Special thanks to the Chamblee Area Business & Professional Coalition for passing this along:

Don’t miss the Taste of Chamblee & Garden Tour on Saturday, May 31!

The garden tour is from 9:00am-3:00pm in the Huntley Hills neighborhood. Tickets can be purchased for $10 in advance at the Ashe-Simpson Garden Center or on Saturday at 3747 Longview Drive.

The Taste of Chamblee street festival is in front of Chamblee City Hall at 5468 Peachtree Road. There will be a variety of restaurants offering sample sizes of their food, ranging from authentic Chinese to pizza, BBQ, hand-made chocolates, ice cream, smoothies & more! You can purchase 8 tickets for $10 which can be exchanged for one food sample each (additional tickets will be $1.50). In addition to the restaurants there will be a beer garden and several performers. Starting off the festival is a steel drum percussion quintet and ending it is a bluesy-rock group called Misconduct. In the midst of the festival, you’ll catch a mariachi band, samba dancers, a fencing demonstration and even a Chinese lion dance! Finally there is a silent auction raising money for Special Olympics Georgia. Here you can make a bid to win a spectacular bottle of Cristal Champagne, a handmade Persian rug, a set of antique skis, among many other items. The festival lasts from 4:00pm – 8:00pm. Last bid for the silent auction is at 7:00pm.

Parking: There will be several lots available for parking near the festival. Heading towards City Hall from Chamblee-Tucker, parking will be at the new Chamblee public parking lot next door to the MARTA station. (It is a former MARTA lot). On Broad Street, there will be parking at the Chamblee Civic Center, Police Station, Post Office, and IDP’s parking lot.


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