Residents, lawmakers discuss DeKalb’s land grab

Reps. Pam Stephenson

The cityhood and annexation movement in DeKalb was the top subject when state legislators representing DeKalb County held a town hall meeting Oct. 28.

“We are coming back to y’all this session,” said Jason Lary, president of the
Stonecrest City Alliance, a group seeking cityhood of the area around Stonecrest Mall.

“Stonecrest is back on the table.”

Lary said the Stonecrest City Alliance has initiated a new study with the Carl Vinson Institute, been in cooperation with other cityhood movements and altered its proposed boundaries.

“One of the major factors or contentions…in the cityhood opportunity for Stonecrest was that it encircled or blocked in the city of Lithonia,” Lary said. The original proposed city would have included 82,000 residents.

“We shrunk that particular opportunity, made it smaller and it does not encircle the city of Lithonia,” Lary said. “They can grow by [however] they see fit on that end and give everybody a fair shot.

“DeKalb County is going to change forever,” Lary said. “It is not an issue of if you are going to be in a city. The matter is which city are you going to be in. That’s not a bad thing for DeKalb County. DeKalb County has to succeed or all of us fail.”

Lary asked the delegation to allow residents to vote on the proposed Stonecrest.

Mike Jacobs
Mike Jacobs

“I want you to do what the people are asking you to do,” Lary said. “You’re not approving cityhood. You’re putting it on a referendum so that folks can have their say and have their vote and the people will let you know how they feel about it.

Speaking about the several annexation proposals across DeKalb County, Allen Venet, president of the City of Briarcliff Initiative, asked legislators to “find to a way so that this isn’t a race to see who gets there first, who gets a bill first, but rather that this is a deliberative discussion over where the lines ought to be for…the best result of everyone in DeKalb County.”

In response, Rep. Mike Jacobs said, “I haven’t yet collected my thoughts about this idea of a city of Atlanta annexation. It seems to take in a lot of territory. I’m not quite sure whether that’s an offensive or defensive measure. Frankly I’m not sure if it is whether it’s just a matter of posturing vis-à-vis the new city proposals that exist.”

For the “smaller, more manageable annexation” proposals, “the city that is proposing to do the annexations and the residents in that really need to be talking with their local legislator,” Jacobs said.

“That person is really the best arbiter of whether that’s a realistic annexation that both makes sense for the city…and the residents,” Jacobs said.

Michael Dowling, president of the Clairmont Heights Civic Association, said his neighborhood seems “to be one of the centers of every single cityhood or annexation movement in central DeKalb.”

Dowling asked if lawmakers had a process, “other than talking to our local legislator,” for reconciling new maps with others already drawn or in the process of being drawn.

“I don’t have an answer for that question,” Jacobs said. “The process of reconciling these boundaries has been very frustrating.”

Currently the proposed cities of Briarcliff, Lakeside and Tucker have until Nov. 15 to reconcile their overlapping borders.

“If they manage to get that done by Nov. 15, I think that’s very persuasive, above all else,” Jacobs said.

Kathryn Rice, chairwoman of Concerned Citizens for Cityhood of South DeKalb, told legislators that her group’s proposal for a large city with 300,000 residents is not a reactionary, defensive move.

“We saw that there are cityhood efforts…and we did not respond to that,” Rice said. “It’s only when it affected us that we began to respond.

“Just like if the United States is attacked by a power, it may not have planned that, but since they are attacked, they have to deal with it,” Rice said. “I’m not saying we’re being attacked at all. It’s just that there is a situation that exists—a lot of areas that are proposing incorporation, so…we came up with what we thought was the best proposition.”

Rice asked legislators to give the proposed south DeKalb city a chance to go before voters.

“You’re not making the decision, so if you go ahead and vote to support us, then all you’re doing really is giving us the opportunity to allow people here to determine whether or not they want a city,” Rice said.

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