North central DeKalb residents considering creating own city

Three months after residents in the Brookhaven area voted to create their own city, some residents in north central DeKalb are wondering whether they should go the same route.

Residents in the Druid Hills, Sagamore Hills and North Briarcliff communities – near Shallowford and Briarcliff roads – have held meetings last month to discuss the possibility of creating a north central DeKalb city. The city would include areas north of Decatur, east of highway I-85 and west of I-285.

The discussion comes on the cusps of the incorporation of Brookhaven and the annexation referendum of the city of Chamblee on the Nov. 6 ballot that could triple the city’s population in two years. Ray Johnson, who lives in unincorporated north Decatur off Druid Hills Road, said right now there doesn’t seem to be a real consensus among the residents about which direction to go into.

“They are very concerned about what may happen, future annexation, and they don’t seem to have any consensus at the moment,” Johnson said.

Johnson said one of the concerns residents have is that central DeKalb will be left out of the “cityhood movement.”

“The other concern is that they’ll be annexed into a city that they don’t want to be annexed into,” he said. “Johnson said there are concerns that Brookhaven may expand I think there is a plan that maybe next year or the year after they intend to annex across east of I-85.”

Commissioner Jeff Rader–whose district includes Druid Hills, Sagamore Hills and North Briarcliff –said he has heard concerns from residents as well.

“The biggest concern people have is the continuing erosion of the tax base and the ability of the county to be able to continue to fund basic services as areas with a tax base continue to be drawn off into other cities,” he said.

At the county commissioners’ retreat Oct. 5, DeKalb County Chief Operating Officer Richard Stogner said the county will lose $42 million next year, including $25 million due to the incorporation of Brookhaven and a possible $7 million if a large annexation by Chamblee is approved November. The declining tax digest and appeals of tax appraisals account for the rest.

Rader said the newly incorporated cities would have more tax digest per capita than the rest of the county.

“Then they would have a higher fiscal capacity than the county as a whole,” he said. “That’s been the case of every jurisdiction that is annexed or is incorporated or the new annexation of all have been predicated on the notion that there is more tax base per capita based in the incorporated areas then there is in the county as a whole.”

State legislators are also getting involved in the cityhood movement.

State Sen. Gloria Butler (D- 55) announced Oct. 5 that she has been named by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle to chair a new Senate study committee on the incorporation of the so-called City of DeKalb. The committee also includes the other Democratic senators from DeKalb and Sen. Fran Millar (R- 40).

The committee will hold public hearings and present its findings to the General Assembly. Rader said the committee wants to look into the trend of creating cities.

“And we might be able to do planning for the future,” he said, “making sure we don’t back ourselves into a corner when it comes to being able to support the general operation of the county.”

Johnson hasn’t decided whether to support a new city or not.

“I’m considering supporting it but right now I’m putting information out there for people to take a look at,” he said.

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