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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  1. jo says:

    In the last few years there have been several annexation votes against joining cities that were ignored and undermined by the politicians; several around Doraville, Chamblee and Clarkston and yet the silent half of DeKalb’s population that purposely bought their home in unincorporated DeKalb is still being ignored. The people who do speak up against recent incorporations or annexations have their character impuned for voicing a contrary opinion. A recent survey by a Druid Hills civic group showed a near 50/50 split between staying unincorporated and joining Atlanta. The joining Atlanta side appeared reactionary to the rejected charter school cluster from the BOE and the side favoring unincoporated is totally ignored. The legislature is simply mudding the waters and solving nothing. The problem is the people in government and their mismanagement of government and the only option they will accept from the voters is a vote to create more government and more politicians.

  2. JackE says:

    Unfortunately, people fear change. We’ve sat back and done the same things over and over which is why we’re still where we are. Folks got heated over and wasted time on a “Y” while others went about the business of separating and gobbling up some very valuable real estate. WAKE UP!

    Stonecrest wants nothing to do with S.DeKalb; I wonder if they’ve considered how much money the area gets from residents in the S.DeKalb area. I say that to say this -folks won’t like this comment but oh well: It’s not as if we have a real Mall in S. DeKalb to spend our money. The truth is “The Galleria” is simply a strip mall. Other than Macy’s there is nothing there for grown folks, it’s a joke. We don’t need a monstrosity but we certainly need a decent mall in S DeKalb.

    Most thriving areas have a mall surrounded by business centers.
    Perimeter, Cumberland, Northlake, etc…

    There is plenty of land in S.DeKalb- we must change the way we look at things; other parts of the County/State left us behind a long time ago.

    During our transition to greater things in S.DeKalb lets not forget that we need to look at everything. Our proximity to downtown, easy access to major highways, etc…There are lots of students in school downtown that would take the 15-20 minute ride, live in our community & drive to school. We’re surrounded by hospitals-interns & doctors! They love the beltline in ATL, it can’t touch Arabia! Look around….we have a lot to work with.

    Our biggest problem: our failing schools on this side of town. Not all, but most. Parents, it starts with us.

    Continuing to do the same things over and over and expecting a different result. smh….


  3. Iva Ben Hadd says:

    How you gonna have a prosperous mall in East or South DeKalb when Commissioner Larry Johnson and this JOKE of a DeKalb Zoning Board can’t bring in WallMarts, Dollar Stores and Gas Stations fast enough ?

    We have no DeKalb Police patrolling South DeKalb because they are stacked up at Stonecrest Mall trying to keep the Pants on the Ground thugs from shooting up the place !!!

    Well, we have two PRICELESS CEO’s on the job with Ellis and MAY = THAT SURE BRINGS THE BUSINESS INTO TOWN = LET ME THINK ??? GASIFICATION PLANT, thank you Lee May !!!

    It would be funny if I wasn’t a land owner, tax payer

    • S says:

      Just rode on Rainbow Drive not long ago and realized that there was a stand alone Family Dollar store in the front while a Dollar Tree in tge back of it. Yeah…I looked forward to having another great shopping alternative in South DeKalb* sarcasm*.

  4. JackE says:

    @Iva Ben Hadd – I agree, as a land owner & tax payer I feel as though I’ve been had too! We all shop and the majority of our money is being spent outside of South DeKalb.

    @jo – True, but we need to start with the DeKalb County gov’t before we throw stones at the Legislature.


  5. Ed Williams says:

    You can also send an email to :
    You can also visit us at

    Concerned Citizens Against Cityhood in South DeKalb

    Don’t Believe the Hype. The city of East Saint Louis is what South DeKalb “Greenhaven” could look like if the cityhood bill is passed for South DeKalb. Crime and corruption on steroids. Quality of Life and small town values will be lost if the cityhood is promoted in DeKalb. We are a suburb of Atlanta. We live here in unincorporated DeKalb because we do not want to be in an urban center.

    There are border issues with the proposed city of Greenhaven and the City of Lithonia, Stonecrest, Stone Mountain, and Decatur. In addition, there are several serious tax issues that should be resolved with DeKalb County as it relates to all these new cities attempting to avoid their tax obligations. Passing these cityhood bills will create greater issues with DeKalb County pensions and bonds accounts. The tax and funding inequity will ultimately in up in court, Particularly since many lawmakers appear to be ignoring their fiduciary responsibility with allowing the new cities to avoid the pension and bond payments to the county.

    The Carl Vinson Institute report was a feasibility study and it only evaluated the financial viability of the proposed new city. The report was based on minimum city services: Parks and recreation, zoning, and code enforcement. The report did not include and qualitative data or resident interviews. The study did not use similar city demographics to compare costs, and the report did not consider the impact of the new city impact on the DeKalb County as a government. The report does not validate the necessity or efficacy of forming a new city. The report did not consider the views of the residents of the affected area.

    The Communities and Neighborhoods did not have the opportunity to opt in or out of any of the boundaries of the proposed cities. We are being told that we only have the ability to say Yes or No at the end of process during the referendum. This does not make any sense. We should have some say so at the front end of the process, to rather communities are included in the new city boundaries. What if, where you lived, this was done to you? A group of people, that have not been elTected by anyone, drafts up a city proposal, creates a boundary map, and creates a charter and then ask the state to sanction it. You would be outraged, like I am.

    There are disputes over which neighborhoods should be included in the boundaries with Decatur, Lithonia and Stonecrest and other communities. There should be a timeout in order to keep this frenzy from becoming a nightmare for everyone.

    Hwang and Sampson, two researchers found that by the late 2000s, racial composition did in fact have a significant effect on a neighborhood’s chance of improvement and ultimate gentrification. The neighborhoods that saw the most improvement met a minimum threshold proportion of white residents—about 35 percent—and a maximum threshold of black residents—about 40 percent.

    These researchers found that the difference in reinvestment levels between neighborhoods of 35 and 45 percent black residents was more than twice the gap in extent of gentrification between neighborhoods of 5 and 15 percent black residents.

  6. Ed Williams says:

    The position of Concerned Citizens Against Cityhood in South DeKalb (CCACSD) – Ed Williams, Chair


    Concerned Citizens for Cityhood in South DeKalb (CCCSD) thinks that it is making gumbo soup. It is proposing to just take a lot of neighborhoods and lump them together and call it a city. The group chose “Greenhaven” a country name for the proposed city. The name selection process was not democratic or inclusive.

    Residents are being told that we will have to pay more taxes if we do not form a city. I think citizens would be better served if the CCCSD would file a court case against the county and the other cities about the tax liabilities and pension obligations that are not being shared by all the property owners of the county. The CCCSD wants the citizens of South DeKalb to believe that creating the city will create economic development.

    Well the Concerned Citizens Against Cityhood in South DeKalb (CCACSD) do not believe this will happen in fact, we believe this city will become a haven for drugs, crime and bad schools. There should be a way for South DeKalb citizens to opt out of the new city if they do not want to be a part of it.

    We do not know if the neighborhood units or community leaders are in support of the cityhood concept. Do they want to be in a smaller city or to remain a part of the county? We have yet to see one elected leader or prominent business leader or any economic expert support the effort beyond members of the CCCSD.

    How can a new city such as the city of Dunwoody or Brookhaven not be equally responsible for pension and bonds that were already obligated prior to their cityhood makes no sense.

    It would be equally appropriate if our political leaders ask state legislators to amend the annexations and consolidation laws to prohibit hostile takeovers without the consent of the governed. Some states have laws that require the cities to make up for the lost revenues of the county. This is what the CCCSD is alarmed about, and rightly so.

    It seems that shotgun cities are appearing all over DeKalb County. Who will pay the county bills once all the local communities become cities? Will the county file bankruptcy and then North DeKalb merge with Milton?

    Concerned Citizens Against Cityhood in South DeKalb (CCACSD would suggest that the state Legislature stop this cityhood movement in the county. The county needs leadership on this issue. Citizens should not remain silent on this issue. We need leadership from the state Legislature.

  7. Ed Williams says:

    Reasons why the new city of Greenhaven (South DeKalb) should not be created. Need more Details. Alternatives Missing from Discussion.


    1. The roof on fire fear tactic approach is not a good way to make public policy. At the very least, citizens should be given time to consider the options and evaluate what another layer government would mean for the region. The rationale that proponents use for the justification for a new city in south DeKalb to leverage resources, avoid pension and bond costs, avoid annexation and focus efforts on economic development are not the only factors to be considered when creating a new city. There are many other factors that residents should consider in order to evaluate rather forming a city would be a good idea.

    2. Alternatives have not been presented to residents in the affected area. For example, smaller cities, opting out of the city, change the annexation laws, court action. Alternative forms of quasi-governmental communities should be considered, private residential associations or communities and special districts could also be alternatives to cityhood. In addition, the impact on the County has not been evaluated and presented as to what would likely happen if all the unincorporated areas became cities. The objectives, goals, and benefits have not been explained in any detail that could be evaluated. The Citizens Against Cityhood in south DeKalb believe that we can leverage resources and assets at the County level, particularly since the majority of the County commissioners and interim CEO are from south DeKalb.

    3. Annexation is being used as a scare tactic. Annexation is not a simple process. The community or property owner has to agree to be annexed. Property cannot just be taken or seized.

    4. There is no historical evidence that forming a city will provide significant private investment in a community that has 65% or greater African American population.

    5. The latest two cities Dunwoody and Brookhaven taxes are expected to increase.

    6. The proposed new city of Greenhaven (south DeKalb) will only provide the following services initially parks and recreation, zoning, and code enforcement. The County will continue to provide Water, Sanitation, Police and Fire, Library, 911, Ambulance, Marta, Hospital, Court services, Road, and many others.

    7. The name of the new city Greenhaven should be changed. The reason given for the name is suspect. The name will not change the region’s image, and the name has no relevance to the historical legacy or the future of the region. The name lacks appeal, it sounds like a funeral home or cemetery name. Need information on how to change the name from Greenhaven.

    8. The creation of a new city will likely create the condition for the formation of a new school district. This would likely split the DeKalb school district along North and South boundaries. This will impact property taxes, and will likely cause property taxes to dramatically increase. Ninety percent of the students in the DeKalb School System are African American and less than 10% are White.

    9. The proposed new city of Greenhaven (south DeKalb) will likely create the need to generate more revenue through code enforcement and ordinance. This would likely result in increase citations from the county and the new city.

    10. The proposed new city of Greenhaven (south DeKalb) should probably be smaller and residents should consider the formation of more than one city if there is a real need. Instead of a mega city.

    11. The residents in the affected areas have not been made aware of the issues of cityhood and its impact on their community and the county. Many residents would likely want to remain living in unincorporated DeKalb.

    12. The rationale for the new city is not valid. A new city being created in another part of DeKalb County is not a valid reason for south DeKalb citizens to do the same. The demographics are different. The majority of the DeKalb commissioners are citizens from south DeKalb, including the interim CEO. Central and south DeKalb already control the county legislative and executive body of DeKalb government. South DeKalb already is in the position to set the agenda. South DeKalb has to elect the right leaders.

    13. Cities cannot create private jobs. A city can create a friendly business climate, if the right people are elected. The new jobs that the new proposed city would create will likely come at the expense of lost revenue from DeKalb County. The County would likely experience a work force reduction, as a consequence of the formation of new cities.

    14. The Carl Vinson Institute report was a feasibility study and it only evaluated the financial viability of the proposed new city. The report was based on minimum city services: Parks and recreation, zoning, and code enforcement. The report did not include and qualitative data or resident interviews. The study did not use similar city demographics to compare costs, and the report did not consider the impact of the new city impact on the DeKalb County as a government. The report does not validate the necessity or efficacy of forming a new city. The report did not consider the views of the residents of the affected area.

    15. There is no information on time table for adding other services like police to the proposed new city services. Need more information on the process to amend the charter to add other services, and how long will it take to amend the charter. .

    16. There is no information on how each of the communities within the boundary of the new proposed city will have to choose either to become part of the new city or opt out and remain unincorporated. It appears that the CCCSD has already included all the unincorporated communities in south DeKalb in its new city. Information is needed in regards to the referendum process and how and when each community will have the opportunity to vote rather to be part of the new city or opt out. The way the CCCSD has conducted the cityhood process and drawn up the map it assumes that all the communities and neighborhoods within the borders want to be in the new city.

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