Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Druid Hills town hall debates cityhood, annexation

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2013 at 5:28 PM

Behold, the City of Briarcliff!
  • Tucker Initiative
  • Behold, the City of Briarcliff!
Druid Hills residents last night filled Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church to hear representatives from Atlanta, the City of Briarcliff Initiative, and DeKalb County discuss possible cityhood and annexation options for the neighborhood.

Hundreds crammed inside the church to learn more about the options for Druid Hills, a historic neighborhood of more than 14,000 residents. Notable elected officials in attendance included Georgia Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur; Atlanta City Councilmen Alex Wan and Aaron Watson; and DeKalb County Commissioners Jeff Rader and Kathie Gannon.

Briarcliff is one of the newest proposals in what has been a feverish influx of cityhood plans throughout DeKalb. According to Druid Hills Civic Association President Justin Critz, it's a trend influenced by DeKalb's recent political scandals and "unwieldy" management.

The options presented to the audience last night were fairly simple: form the new City of Briarcliff, become annexed into Atlanta, or remain in unincorporated DeKalb.

The City of Briarcliff proposal was largely formed in response to the City of Lakeside, a dueling cityhood proposal that's been gaining momentum and would encompass parts of Tucker and much of proposed Briarcliff. Both cities can't exist together with their current proposed borders.

DeKalb Interim CEO Lee May told residents that recent cityhood debates had turned "messy," divisive, and forced citizens into "territorial maneuvers." He's got a point - while Lakeside doesn't include the Druid Hills neighborhood, it does include Toco Hills, a nearby commercial district. Mike St. Louis, chair of the Committee to Explore Druid Hills Cityhood Options, said that Toco Hills' inclusion "reduces the economic viability of remaining unincorporated DeKalb."

About 90,000 residents would live within the proposed City of Briarcliff, which would encompass unincorporated land bordered by the Spaghetti Junction to the north, Fernbank Museum to the south, I-85 to the west, and I-285 to the east.

Residents are now waiting to see which plans will survive the arduous cityhood process and make it to the referendum. Druid Hills had previously considered creating its own city, but neighborhood leaders decided it didn't have enough commercial property to raise tax revenues.

"I want to wait for more information, especially about Briarcliff," Druid Hills resident Bill Hilmes said. "But another level of government is another level of taxes."

To become a city in Georgia, Briarcliff must sponsor a $30,000 financial viability study to see whether the city is feasible, have the Georgia legislature pass a law to authorize a referendum, and then allow voters to cast a ballot on the matter.

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