Highlights from Decatur Annexation Public Hearing

Some fact highlights from last night’s Decatur Annexation Public Meeting presentation (click here to watch the Commission Meeting Video)…

  • Decatur’s existing tax base is 86% residential and 14% commercial.  The average of the annexation areas is 77% residential and 22% commercial, so even a full annexation would slightly shift the commercial % up.
  • The city staff has a committee looking at additional costs and revenue.  Costs include but are not limited to things like streetlights, staffing, facility upgrades etc.
  • Population total of all annexation areas is around 2,000.
  • Another hearing December 2nd, resolution can be adopted at City Commission meeting on December 17th.  Referendum vote would probably be November 5, 2013.
  • Decatur’s homestead exemptions are different from DeKalb’s homestead exemptions.
  • Business owners don’t have a vote unless they live in the area.

And of interest to city residents, here’s the Mayor Bill Floyd’s answer to a question by resident Pat Herold regarding the commission’s view of a school system vote…

  • “If the school system [votes] no, I think a lot of it depends on why they say “no”.  I think we need to analyze what they’ve done.  If it’s going to cost us $5 million then it be hard to vote yes for that.  If its a problem that we may be able to work out in a year or two, then maybe it’s different.  I think there are reasons why we have to consider what the school system tells us or asks us or gives us their opinion and then we decide.  I’m not so sure just a “yes” or “no” by the school system is what we’re going to get.  I think we may get a maybe.  How do you look at it then?  So I think there’s a lot of things going on here.  It’s a very important part of any decision this commission will make.”

Most of the comments made during the General Comments portion of the meeting were from residents in the proposed annexation areas for and against the annexation effort.

More reports and more dramatic headlines below…

Update: More local news links (courtesy of Deanne)

113 thoughts on “Highlights from Decatur Annexation Public Hearing”

  1. All About Legacy

    Why annexation such a large portion into the City of Decatur? It is about legacy. What kind of accomplishments has Peggy Merriss and Bill Floyd done for the City of Decatur for the last 30 years. What better way to go out in style and retire. Peggy Merris started working for the City in 1983. She will have 30 years in by May of 2013. By annexing a large portion of commercial property for the City she would be the only sitting City Manager to ever get it done.

  2. There has yet to be a explanation or report by the City or the Commission members as to why we should move forward with the proposed annexation. I have yet to hear any resident of the city express support for annexation as proposed. At the meeting last night, the only people that spoke in support of annexation were residents in the proposed areas that want to take advantage our the system system. I completely understand why.

    The only statements that have been made as reasons to consider annexation are “gateway to the city” and “reduced taxes (benefits) to the the current residents”. However, even at this late date the city has yet to provide the community or even the school system with any financial forecast. And as for the gateway argument, do we really want a Walmart and McDonalds to be the new gateways to Decatur?

    In the mean time, the schools have produced numerous drafts and forecast. These have been provided to the city and the public, with no reciprocation from the City Manager’s office.

    Even though the city released a powerpoint slide with commercial/residential tax revenues. Only one of the proposed areas has a ratio greater than the city’s historic target of 70/30. Three or four areas have no commercial at all.

    This is an import consideration that I’ve created a youtube about. The root of the issue appears to be a problem with the existing commercial tax digest. These numbers have not gotten out of balance because of a huge increase in households or significant demolition of commercial properties. Stay tuned.

    Let’s be clear, the school system is growing at the fastest rate of any system in the state. With 60 years of precedents of deferring annexation, now is not the time to break this long standing tradition. If annexation is the right answer in the long, then let’s continue to wait until the time is right.

    1. Pat, is anyone in the work group willing to go to the press? I think it is absurd that the only “story” is the fight in Midway Woods, not the lack of transparency and the division among residents & government in Decatur

      1. I guess I’m a bit surprised by the “Neighbor against neighbor” headlines on the press stories. From the little bit that I’ve seen in Midway Woods, neighbors seem to be expressing their diverse opinions in a cordial and appropriate manner. I sure hope Decatur is not teasing these communities with this issue. I guess my preference would have been for the city to first determine if these are communities that we want in before getting them all wound up. But that’s water under the bridge. (Unless that determination was already made?)

        As for the question about current residents and city government, I still believe we’re seeing a very open and inclusive process compared to larger local governments. Yes, I’m a bit disappointed that the city has been unwilling to release it’s draft financial data to the annexation committee even though the school system has released it’s work product all along the way.

        And yes, it’s concerning that the city commission has indicated a willingness to move forward with annexation even if the school system determines that doing so would not be beneficial at this time. (A commitment codified in the 10 year strategic plan).

        But for sixty years the commission has deferred on annexation based on reasoned evaluation. I just can’t imagine the commission breaking with tradition and voting in opposition to the school board. I trust that the city will first provide current residents financial forecast and a report with a clear articulation on why to move forward with annexation along with ample time for the community to review and comment on the proposal.

        So far we have yet to get this report. I was expecting to see this at the last city commission meeting. This would have allowed public comment on the proposal at the next meeting. At this point, I see no way for the city to meet the timeline they have set and allow residents an opportunity for public comment.

        I’d be happy to discuss this issue with anyone interested.

        1. Pat, as a resident of Midway Woods and a member of No2Decatur.com. I can say that for the most part the discussion has been civil, however, it’s not been transparent. Members of Midway Woods Neighborhood Association approached Peggy Merriss about being including in Area D. I was not alarmed until I discovered that she changed the petition to include “other” areas on the petition, whereas in the original version it did not.
          She has been quite cordial to this group and even attended one of their meetings. When was the last time the City Manager attended a meeting for a City of Decatur N’hood Association?

          Secondly, MWNA is using a “survey” as a backhanded way of using it as a petition. They are going to tabulate it and then decide how it is going to be used. Midway Woods is overwhelming over age 50 and there is a big digital divide, so most don’t have computers. MWNA did provide a paper copy to all residents, however, would you complete a survey with your name, address & personal info and place it in a tube in the middle of a park where anyone could come by and pick it up? They are going to tabulate the results which will mainly be from like minded residents that are on the MWNA Board, those under 40 with kids. If they get the results they want they will hand them over to COD.

          We personally sent an e-mail to Peggy Merris and asked could this be used and she has not responded as of yet. Much like the Mayor hasn’t said why he would go forward with annexaiton even if the COD schools says it isn’t feasible, we are leary of her duplicity in this plot.

          Paranoid? I think not. That is why even though Midway Woods isn’t official on the map so to speak our group is doing everything legally possible to keep this from even coming to a vote.

    2. I’m not sure what’s so hard to understand. They want more money from more taxpayers, particularly the commercial properties. They probably got a few letters from parents asking to be annexed into the city (so those parents don’t have to take responsibility and fend for themselves and their own kids), and that fed the collective Univacs on the Commission to start the process of annexation again.

      Allegedly, this would allow them, then, to reduce the current property taxes, or so they say. But in the history of taxes, how many cities have actually said, “Oh, well, okay then… we have too much money! We’ll let you off the hook next year and your taxes will be reduced!”

      Answer: none.

  3. Did they explain their motivation for the annexation? That fundamental question still remains unanswered.

    I have heard some interesting speculation from a somewhat connected person that this is essentially driven by a desire by the powers that be to have more power (or more accurately, to maintian power). They are concerned that Decatur’s influence will be reduced because of new, larger cities in Dekalb. It is admittedly only speculation, but it is concerning to say the least. I, for one, am much less concerned about our sphere of influence that I am protecting what he have here in Decatur, especially the school system.

    1. Well, Dawg, curiouser and curiouser– we actually have some common ground on one point. You’ve said aloud what I’ve wondered: whether there’s the possibility that an underlying motivation in pushing annexation could be the reluctance to give up the chance to exert control over those areas that immediately border the City. IMO, it makes as much sense as anything, given that I’m still not seeing any clear math on how this will actually prove a financial benefit to Decatur (or to CSD). I’m all for paying taxes to support a good school system, but adding so few businesses and so many households with children isn’t going to lower costs, it’s going to increase them. At some point, the City will likely have to raise property taxes yet again to make up the difference, and as others have noted, taxes ain’t exactly cheap right now. For some residents, it’s already crushing– and since no one gets any real relief until they’re 80, the prospect of having your taxes continue to rise each year is not exactly one even those of us who’re (currently) financially comfortable will relish. That’s not being stingy, that’s being realistic. The more I think about it, the less confident I feel that this will end up being good for the City’s residents.

      1. There is some irony in this too re: taxes. If we do go forward with annexation and have to raise taxes, school enrollment will actually increase. Residents without children will be the ones leaving, and the only ones moving in will be families with school age children as taxes, even with the increased millage rate, will still be cheaper than private schools.

        1. Exactly. I know there are many folks who’re in a child-centric phase, & believe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing for Decatur to become basically an in-town suburb ( read: more families w/kids vs. fewer singles & DINKS). They’ve convinced themselves that this would lend Decatur more cachet. However, when the number of revenue-positive households (singles & DINKs) starts decreasing & the revenue-negative households start multiplying, resources for those precious schools are going to get stretched ever more thin, until (as someone else in this thread already pointed out), our much-vaunted school system will no longer be what it is now. That would be bad for ALL of us.

          1. I am with you both. This is the question I have been asking for MONTHS, and I got bashed more than once for asking- what is the benefit for US and what is the rationale for the annexation.

        2. I agree that we want to keep an environment that is diverse in age groups, life stage, life style too. I like having neighbors who don’t all have kids and I hope that this doesn’t change.

  4. Mayor Bill Floyd also said in the meeting tonight that even if the School Board votes that annexation is not in the best interest of the City Schools, then the Commissioners may still vote for annexationAm I missing something here? You guys pay 2/3 of your property taxes to have great schools, but if it negatively affects those schools the Board of Commissioners can still vote for annexation. Is there a hidden agenda? The Mayor was very evasive on this subject. Yeah, I’m biased because I don’t want to be annexed, but Citizens of Decatur should really question that issue.

  5. CSD special session on annexation: 6:00 pm on Monday, Oct 29. There will be opportunity for public comment. The Mayor did open the possibility of moving forward with annexation despite a determination by CSD that it would be detrimental to the schools, so I urge Decatur residents to tune in and speak up.

    In response to DawgFan, the Mayor said that they would only pursue annexation if it were beneficial to current City residents, but was left entirely unclear what the potential benefit of annexation might be. Apparently even the financial impact on the City remains unknown here two months after the last presentation in August.

    THe 2008 annexation plan was tabled in part for the following reason: “CSD are facing many challenges including policies to address an increase in the number of potential students whose families currently reside within the City limits. Postponing consideration of the annexation iss gives CSD time to develop and implement a plan to address current school population issues.” The spike in enrollment has only grown since 2008, with the schools looking at reaching maximum capacity of all existing facilities in the next 4-5 years.

    So not only have we yet to hear any substantial positive reason to pursue this annexation from any party within Decatur, the TIMING of the proposal is puzzling. Even setting aside the unsurprisingly negative financial impact on the schools, could anyone who is attuned to what is going on with enrollment and facility capacities at CSD think it might be a good idea to introduce 1100 new households into the City at this time?

    1. Wasn’t one of the arguments in 2008 that the annexed low-density commercial areas (like Publix) be rezoned to higher densities and therefore generate more revenue than current projections currently take into account? I haven’t heard that argument at all this time around, but was reminded of it when folks last night started talking about how the positive impact might take a few years to take hold.

    2. Judd, thanks for the info. Quick question: Was there ever clarification on whether or not the CSD task force was pulling together impact numbers on a per-zone basis, looking at each potential annexation zone individually, or are they still just going with the all or nothing analysis?

      1. Yes, we have area by area numbers. I don’t have it in front of me, but the one area that doesn’t start off significantly in the red — only slightly in the red — is area A (around Publix). But that’s without yet factoring in capital costs associated with student growth in the area. So I’d have to say the most recent numbers I’ve seen are still incomplete.

        1. The Annexation Workgroup has posted their report:
          http://decaturannexation.blogspot.com/.

          The Board of Education will hold a Work Session (to consider and talk together) and a Special Session (to vote) on Monday, October 29 beginning at 6 pm at Westchester. The Special Session (around 7 PM), offers an opportunity for public comment.

          Thomas, representing the Annexation Workgroup

          1. Thomas, thanks for the link. The report confirms my concerns and makes clear that this isn’t a “well, if certain things don’t do our way, we may have a problem down the road” situation. The problems arise immediately if we proceed with annexation and are larger than I thought.

            I would love to see Mayor Floyd try to spin this as a “Maybe”.

      1. My gut feeling about what in particular? I’ve been deep in the weeds on this issue in 2008 and this time around too. My head says, because the numbers say every which way I’ve looked at them, that residential annexations are a bad deal for the both the schools and the Decatur tax payer. I thought that was pretty well established in 2008, when the clearly stated rationale for annexation was to reduce the tax burden. Now it’s back and the tax rationale is in the background and ambiguously stated, months passing with still no financial evaluation from the City. Annexation was reintroduced this time, initially, with what seems to me the very weak rationale of managing the appearance of the Suburban Plaza redevelopment, but then the map that appears has a massive amount of residential in it, which doesn’t match even this weak rationale. So I see a big disproportion between, on the one hand, the effort and money put into this — all the hours spent by our city and school officials, paid consultants, neighborhood associations (while dividing surrounding communities against themselves) — and, on the other hand, the lack of a solid rationale and the solid analysis showing this to be a bad deal for city residents. Because of this disproportion, my gut is deeply confused. Sorry — was that your question?

        As for my wife, I couldn’t agree more!

        1. That is basically what I was asking. It’s pretty much what I felt and I have not even been embroiled with it- which I find completely worrisome.

        2. A great assessment; thanks for it.

          Ironically, Suburban Plaza might work itself out, anyway. Mayor Floyd recently expressed a desire for that strip to be more like downtown Decatur, filled will boutique shops — as if such boutique shops would all be like the one that sells women’s blouses for $300 apiece. Selig owns the land. Period. WalMart wants the property. Period. The best we can hope for is that the architect makes the area look nicer than it currently does, and I think I could do that just scribbling a design on a napkin.

          Now, enter Fuqua. Its reputation is as a developer of “unique” properties in tight spaces. It’s doubtful we’ll have to face pawn shops and check-cashing centers in that spot, so there’s that.

          I say we continue to work positively with local developers, expressing our concern for area aesthetics (by the way, Decatur “let in” that blue-marbled monstrosity that was Decatur Diner for awhile), and that we see what happens organically before we start grabbing people’s homes — and wallets.

  6. Decatur has done a wonderful job making the city very livable and developing downtown Decatur into a very vibrant area. That is why I don’t see any compelling reason to annex the areas in question or the additional “other” areas. Again, I go back to it must be an additional reason that the City Commission is not sharing. I’ve watched (from outside of Decatur) the transformation and saw how transparent the Mayor and Commission, have in the past. I remember when the condos on the corner of Ponce & Commerce were being discussed and about the only restaurant to eat downtown was Bucks (now Parker’s on Ponce).
    so I’ve seen the transformation.
    That the Mayor and City Commissioners do not have a plan in place and a clearly defined startegic plan makes me wonder why now? Why these areas? Why doesn’t the Mayor come forth with a solid, clear answer?

  7. The city commission is clearly in the pocket of the speed hump mafia. These unincorporated areas are completely free of speed humps. Annexation will provide those pavement peddlers access to vast stretches of unimpeded roadways.

  8. Maybe the Commissioners are just tired of being Commissioners and they don’t want to be re-elected but at the same time, they don’t just want to give up their spot and look like they are quitters. With a yes annexation vote, they can be sure that they won’t have to be burdened with another term.

    There are no other viable reasons that have been presented by the City, especially when you look at the characteristics of the proposed annexation areas. Maybe there are other reasons, but the Commission and the Mayor appear to not be sharing them.

    I have never in my life seen such a big undertaking being attempted with so little reasonable justification or explanation. It really is baffling

    Parents vote… and folks who are annexed against their will vote.

  9. I’m yet another resident puzzling over why the City, which I usually consider to have a transparent and responsive style of governance, is not spelling out the rationale for considering annexation in a way that most of us can understand. I do not understand what’s going on well enough to have a clear opinion. It’s like watching an unfamiliar sport and not knowing the rules and objectives, never mind which side I’m rooting for. I hate this but it feels a little bit like the 2004 school reconfiguration process during which I never understood what was happening behind the scenes in offline conversations and emails among those in the know until it was way too late to say “Excuse me, but………..” I don’t want to be paranoid about the city’s motives but I also don’t want to be caught unawares.

  10. So let me get this straight. After watching the news clips on the Midway Woods debate, here is my takeaway. We have a neighborhood where young parents bought houses a few years ago at a discount, knowing that the school situation had challenges. A few years later even though they knew what they were buying, they are unhappy with their choice because the time has come to send their little ones to school and they don’t like their options. At Decatur taxpayer expense, and to the detriment of the Decatur school system, these parents want Decatur to annex them so they can get a windfall.

    On the other side of the coin, we have senior citizens, single parents, residents without children and families who struggle to make ends meet. They have, in many cases, lived in Midway for decades and do not want to be annexed because it may drive them out of their homes.

    The Midway young parents seem to not be too concerned about their elderly and financially challenged neighbors. They just want to access our school system regardless of what kind of havoc this imposes on those less advantaged than them. These parents are unwilling I guess to move to a home in Decatur, maybe because they don’t want to give up the extra space they have… maybe because it is too much trouble?

    Do I have this right?

    The Midway young parents probably don’t realize that the Decatur school system they would get would not be the same as the current school system. We are already full to the gills with students with trailers at several schools. We have elementary school classes with 29 children in them. We have middle and high school classes with even more kids. Enrollment is growing dramatically with no end it sight, and even the middle and high schools are facing overcrowding in a few years.

    1. I think you have it largely, correct. I would assert, however, that in the case of at least some of these young families, it is likely that they purchased their homes before they had children and/or before the housing collapse. Perhaps they thought that when and if they had children several years down the road they could sell and move into Decatur (or some other more desirable school district). Now they may find themselves upside down in their mortgages or at least in the position of being unable to sell at the price they could get for their homes (as opposed to simply not wanting the hassle of moving). All that said, I’m not saying it’s the City’s responsibility to bail them out of their present circumstances, nor am I in favor of annexation (with the information I have today); simply suggesting some other elements that might be considered in your characterization of folks’ choices.

      1. It’s particularly not the City’s mission to do so when the result will be displacing many more elderly and financially challenged families that can’t come up with an extra $2000 or so a year. I understand the plight of not being able to sell your home, but the plight of being forced out of your home is much worse.

    2. +1,000,000

      They want to hit the housing lottery. Sorry, but if you were young and married, you had to at some point think about children. Some probably purchased in Midway Woods with an eye towards annexation.

      IMO, this is one of the most befuddling propositions I’ve encountered since moving to Decatur. (Side Note – I moved here towards the end of the school re-config fiasco). The commission needs to have its eyes on the surrounding commercial properties that abutt Decatur and not at the residentially dense area of Midway Woods.

      As has already been discussed, the hit to the school system would be enormous. You’d be looking at probably 2 additional elementary schools (Westchester/ Midway) and a suddenly obsolete 4/5th Academy (too small). You also will have an area that would require, by law (distance), bus service to all of its students for 4/5th, Renfroe and High School. Again making the assumption that Decatur would acquire Midway Elementary (I believe that’s the name) and thus that would be w/in 1 mile of most students in that neighborhood.

      Also, I haven’t seen the map, but are we also talking about Katie Kerr neighborhoods?
      Another Question – Was the DeVry campus ever formally annexed into Decatur?

      IMO, this entire exercise should be 100% focused on the commercial areas. We need to grow the tax base, not continue to burden and overload the services that we already offer. Publix mall at Clairemont & N. Decatur & Suburban Mall. Oh wait, are both of those owned by Selig? Hmmmmm.

      Don’t the Commissioners know how to play Sim City? C’mon Man!!!

      1. DHD – The Katie Kerr neighborhoods aren’t on the table this time around. There seems to be a gentleman’s agreement that we’re under the Avondale sphere of influence now. Darn it. (Kicks rock. Thinks that “annexation lottery” thing sounds kinda sweet.)

      2. I know straight from the mouth of a Midway Woods friend that HER real estate agent told her that Midway Woods would definitely be annexed into Decatur at some point. I suspect others have been sold that as well.

        1. Wow, I’d call that malpractice. That’s not good.

          But I want to add to this thought thread that it’s not just Midway Woods in the situation you describe: it’s also Springdale Heights, or area B-1. I can empathize with someone who bought outside the City, had kids, then weren’t able to sell because of the economic fallout. BUT their being in those dire straits doesn’t mean the solution is to put others — mostly senior citizens — in even greater dire straits.

    3. Husband and I sold in Midway several years ago. At the time, we were very dissapointed by what felt like the exclusionary attitude of city residents. We really really wanted to be annexed!

      Fast forward a couple of kids–and more intimate knowledge of the crowding issues in CSD, and we’ve done a 180. I see no financially responsible reason to annex Midway Woods. I love my old neighborhood and the friends we made there, but I don’t want my kid in a trailer and my taxes to go up so their kids have access to CSD and they get a huge bump in property value.

      Like others commenting here, I’d like to hear the city more clearly articulate why commercial annexation is a good idea. As a Westchester area resident, I see some advantages to having the city control nearby commercial development, but we need more info from the city.

  11. A lot of voices on here clearly oppose the annexation. I do as well. While the hearings are one way to be heard, there are others. If you are a Decatur resident and are not in favor of this, make sure you are heard. E-mail your city commissioners. Their e-mail addresses are included in the link below:

    http://www.decaturga.com/index.aspx?page=112

  12. Is any of this even necessary? According to no lesser an authority than the United States Postal Service, Decatur already encompasses all of these potential annexation areas.

  13. It’s interesting that the city makes the following point:

    “Decatur’s existing tax base is 86% residential and 14% commercial. The average of the annexation areas is 77% residential and 22% commercial, so even a full annexation would slightly shift the commercial % up.”

    Looking at the map [http://www.decaturga.com/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=3392] the only areas that seem to have any commercial on them are A & B. If this is the main argument, a revenue argument, then why not just annex these heavy commercial areas? Why are the totally residential areas even being considered?

    The only compelling argument the city makes is that we need more revenues and commercial properties generate higher revenue with fewer costs. I get that. However, in the map, there are whole areas that are completely residential, and it feels like these are being “trojan horsed” in with the high commercial areas so that they can say the “average” is more commercial.

    I cannot understand why the city is “solving” the problem of a too heavily residential tax base by seeking to annex whole areas that are exclusively residential. Can someone from the city explain this?

    1. Because if Decatur only annexed Wal-Mart, Publix and the surrounding retail, the naked aggression would be too apparent.

      1. Everyone knows the city wants the commercial . It’s a stated objective. I don’t believe the city cares about bringing neighborhoods into the city, half of whose residents don’t want to come, just so they don’t look greedy.

      2. OK, so City of Decatur annexes a bunch or residential areas where at least half of the residents don’t want to be annexed and many will be forced out of their homes if they are annexed…. and City of Decatur shoves these reluctant residents on our school system, against the school systems will, and says, “Just deal with it, suckers.. We have to stick it to you so that we can look like we are nice when we take over that little swath of commercial to the north.”

        So, you are saying City of Decatur is looking to do this to old people and poor people and to our school kids and teachers so they don’t look greedy???? and aggressive????….. Wow, I guess I don’t really understand what greedy and aggressive means.

        1. “so City of Decatur annexes a bunch or residential areas where at least half of the residents don’t want to be annexed”
          If more than half don’t want to be annexed and vote accordingly, they won’t be annexed.

  14. Absolutely right on the residential side.

    I’m also disgusted at the attitude of the city (and some residents) towards the owners of the commercial properties. It makes no sense to me that they are given no vote, and are treated only as cows to milked. It is shameful.

      1. Thanks Steve. I didn’t know who granted that authority to cities.

        Even so, my argument was a moral one not a legal one.

  15. This “Gateway to the City” argument is pretty shallow, too. That concept never ends – out to Scott Boulevard, North DeKalb Mall, Dekalb Industrial, DeKalb Farmers Market.

    1. Speaking of gateways, if Area B-1 is annexed, I want a frickin’ bronze statue of Stephen Decatur himself right there at the intersection of Sycamore and Church Street, announcing the new city border! Ole Stephen, and maybe even Captain D!

      1. If the proposed annexation goes thru, why stop there with a statue of Stephen Decatur on Scott Boulevard.

        We should make no such small plans. We are Decatur with one of the best school systems in the state – and the state rans 39 out of 50 so we are at the top of the bottom 20th percentile. We need to dream much bigger than this.

        If this annexation is a good idea, then lets capitalize on it and beat the county to the punch. Instead of the City of DeKalb that the county is starting to float, lets annex all the contiguous unicorporated property.

        We could then build a much larger statue of Stephen Decatur, I’m thinking on the scale of the Statue of Liberty that would be tourist draw. Or better yet, the worlds largets Belgian Beer glass, or the largest permanent festival tent – the opportunities would be endless.

        “Today Scott Boulevard, Tommorow the County”

        I am ordering my yard sign now.

  16. Aren’t there any polisci majors on this site? Annexees equal constituents. Constituents equal potential votes.

    1. Doh. Never thought about that. I’m so child-centric all I can hear is my head is “29 kids in classroom=crowded=bad”. I forgot about 150 new residents=150 votes. So where would newly annexed votes go? In whose districts? Maybe this is a clue to the puzzle of why would Commissioners want this? But it still leaves the motivation for the City administration. I’m wondering if they are worried about a weakened or dissolved DeKalb County as more and more cities are formed within in and bud off or if a DeKalb City is formed. Would then City of Decatur have to take on a lot of the functions of the former County without having the size and resources to do so? Is that why the City is considering growth to be good? Or do they really think that the increased revenue from annexed commercial (and other) properties would be greater than the costs of supporting annexed residential (and other) properties?

    2. I don’t get it. How does more votes equate to benefit for the city or any particular politician? Is the suggestion that those annexed are paying such close attention to the personalities that comprise our commission and will be so eternally grateful for being annexated that they’ll pledge their votes in perpetuity to those particular individuals? What am I not seeing?

      1. The shire of Decatur exists in the County of DeKalb and numbers of votes and geographic area equate to a larger voice. Prior to the incorporation of Dunwoody and Brookhaven, Decatur was the largest city in DeKalb. This is no longer the case. The sum of the populations of all the other cities combined (ca. 62.780) does not approach the sum of the populations of Brookhaven and Dunwoody (ca. 95,800). The power paradigm has shifted and the spectre of a City of DeKalb is on the horizon as well, fencing future growth of existing cities.

        Brookhaven 49,000
        Dunwoody 46,809
        Decatur 19,555
        Chamblee 15,675
        Doraville 8,429
        Clarkston 7,641
        Stone Mtn 5,871
        Avondale 2,960
        Lithonia 1,924
        Pine Lake 730

        1. I get that a City of Dekalb, if it ever came to pass, would effectively fence geographic expansion of existing cities within the County. More interesting to me is the idea of the balance of power within the County shifting to newly incorporated, much larger cities. I really like to pretend that what happens in Dunwoody doesn’t have anything to do with me (even though I generally take a globalist, we-are-all-in-this-together line), so I had not thought about that issue at all. What does it mean, in practical terms? Is it going to result in meaningful disadvantage for Decatur? Does it mean reasonable people might see long-term benefits that out-weigh the short-term and long-term cost and agony of Decatur annexing substantial residential tracts? If so, what, specifically?

          1. moving towards final form
            it depends
            yes

            It’s speculative not factual. Where are the offices? What route would you propose for a circulator? How would freshly minted cities rezone along the borders? Will you be able to grow? How powerful could a City of North Druid Hills be?

        2. I would like to know too. I keep thinking that there’s more to this than let’s annex because we can do it. That just doesn’t fit the COD vibe that we’re used to. Maybe there’s concerns, thinking, and discussion that just haven’t been shared it, maybe even for good reason. Or maybe there’s good rationales that are hard to articulate in a politically correct manner, e.g. Dunwoody or Brookhaven are big threats for reasons X, Y, or Z.

  17. I continue to be totally baffled about how this can even possibly be on the table given the impact to CSD. We’re talking major numbers here right??? A commercial annexation that brought in a dozen kids, ok fine, but this would FUNDAMENTALLY change the city schools in an environment where there are already major issues regarding crowding and capacity. Is there a document or presentation that I have missed that explains how (on earth) CSD could possibly accommodate such a surge? A major new building? A new configuration?

    Trailers and large class sizes already exist. I personally face these challenges with good will as we work to manage a growing population. But my good will would fade if we brought upon ourselves a large and unwise jump in population.

  18. Feeling paranoid today. Is there any chance that there’s some kind of undisclosed COD fiscal disaster that some subgroup of COD staff hopes will be solved by annexation without ever having to reveal the details of the fiscal mess?

    There, I’ve said it–my worst fear about annexation–that something shady is going on. My COD-trust levels are so high that I feel stupid articulate this fear. But it’s going to be there until there’s a clear explanation from the City about why it is exploring annexation so vigorously right now.

      1. Agree. If my worst fear–that something shady is going on–is disproven as I expect it will be, then hopefully we will soon get a rational justification for pursuing annexation. Step 2 is to examine that justification, its assumptions, analyses, and reasoning and then see if we the constituents agree with it. If not, we speak up. Maybe that analysis process is still going on but the City feels pressured by some timeline to start pursuing the option anyway. Maybe it’s as simple as that.

    1. Until the City Commissioners can articulate an analysis and reasons for this annexation that make sense to our residents, we can only assume one of three things (and this is always the case when someone appears to be hiding their rational)….

      The city government is incredibly stupid.
      The city government is very crooked.
      The city government is in a major crisis and doesn’t want us to know about it because we will panic.

      It would behoove our City Manager to step up to the plate and come up with some real analysis .. and put this nonsense off until she can articulate reasoning that makes sense.. She’s unfairly making the Commission look stupid, crooked or desperate… not sure which one.

      1. The School report highlights a significant financial challenge we face in the mid-term future:
        – Even without annexation we will need to build a new school at some point.
        – A new school is not only expensive bo build, but the city would also need to acquire 6 acres of land upon which to build it.
        – There are not many contiguous plots of 6 acres remaining in Decatur… though there are a few just outside of Decatur, like the Methodist Children’s Home and DeVry on Winn Way.

  19. My thoughts:
    Decatur does want the commercial areas of Publix and the new WalMart. These are pure cash cows.
    Decatur will need to build new schools at some point. This will be very expensive. New annexed areas will bring in both enough students to force new construction and new taxes to help pay for it.
    Decatur talks a liberal, moral game but annexing residential areas with large numbers of lower income seniors will force them to move and lose their homes. A city with a conscience would consider bringing their taxes and exemptions on elderly residents more in line with DeKalb’s to avoid this scenario.

    1. But they really aren’t cash cows in there current form are they if the overall residential to commercial make up are only 20/80 or whatever?

      Regardless of your opinion, I think it’s pretty obvious that “the city” isn’t speaking with one voice about this and we frustratingly have little idea of the Commission’s opinion on any of this yet.

    2. So, supposing that it DOES make financial sense to annex (and that’s a big IF), given necessary new school construction is imminent no matter what (now why WAS it that we closed Westchester? Whoops. Wrong thread.), would a consciencable approach that used DeKalb-like senior tax exemptions work? In other words, could COD have its cake and eat it too (just a tad less icing perhaps)? Could it still come out ahead financially if it spared elderly low income residents a tax increase?

      Just wondering if there’s a financial equation that makes sense. (That doesn’t address the other issues around whether residents want COD and CSD to grow substantially. Even if CSD has sufficient ability to construct enough buildings to hold a much larger school population, is that the school system we want? Would small neighborhood schools survive? How would FAVE, RMS, and DHS handle the increase? Not just in terms of space, but in terms of warmth, community, parent involvement, differentiated instruction, student sense of belonging, individual attention, special services, access to courses like band, AP courses, drama, career academy, etc. There’s mega-schools in the ‘burbs that score higher than CSD on all measures like standardized tests, CRCT, graduation rate, SAT scores, AP scores, etc. but I wouldn’t want my kids lost in them.)

    3. Maybe not cash cows if you consider the additional police support that will be needed to address crime at the new Walmart. A quick count of crimes reported at 3500 Memorial Drive address(Avondale Walmart) between 10/1 and 10/24 shows 35 crimes in 24 days. Mostly shoplifting, with larceny and car entering thrown in. Walmart has low tolerance for shoplifting and will keep the Decatur police very busy responding and booking perps if that corner is annexed. And if you shop at the Avondale Walmart, you know that there is considerable loitering and panhandling going on in the parking lot, events which are not captured in the County crime statistics, but Decatur residents are probably not going to tolerate and will report to Decatur police.

  20. In response to MAB (somehow got put in the thread wrong):
    “Decatur “let in” that blue-marbled monstrosity that was Decatur Diner for awhile”
    Once again, let me point out that exterior design and color do not fall within the bounds of planning and zoning or any other City regulation. Absent a local historic district with design guidelines, folks can make a structure look any way they want if it is otherwise in conformance with zoning.

      1. No, not to you particularly, but in general whenever anybody brings up the question of color and/or design of a structure, as has been done in the past with the Diner and the new Lightroom building, among others.

  21. Ok, so i will start emailing our City Commissioners. I was not able to attend the meeting on Monday night, but I really wanted to go.
    Meanwhile, will it make any difference if we go to the media with OUR side of the story? All I heard in all three of those news links, with the exception of one COD resident, was the perspective of the potential annexees in Midway Woods. What about us? This will affect COD residents as well.

    As for those hoping to be annexed:
    I am sorry you bought a home in Unicorporated Dekalb, and either now have children and want them to go to CSD, or bought into the neighborhood hoping to be annexed. It’s not our problem to fix. Yes, that sounds cold, but I can say that because 7 years ago I lived in an area that was petitioning to be annexed into CSD. I had bought the house in 1996 as a single woman with no concern or awareness about schools. When I got married 6 years later, my husband moved into the house with me, and we started a family there. I started to realize that our neighborhood school was not very good, there were rumors of it closing, and that our few neighbors with children sent their kids to private schools. We could not afford private schools, and it didn’t look likely that we would be annexed. So we bought a home in COD. Yes, it was a financial strain, and yes, we had to make sacrifices and lifestyle adjustments to afford our new mortgage payment. I suggest you do the same, or do what the “pioneers” of some of the CSD schools did years ago, and send your kids to your public school, get involved, and make it better.

    1. In case you aren’t aware, you can watch video of the meeting at http://decaturga.swagit.com/play/10222012-529. They have it divided into segments (Introduction, Opening Presentation, Q&A, and General Public Comment), which makes it easy to target what seems most important, if you don’t have a lot of time. The quality is quite good.

    2. The press, including the wonderful DecaturMetro which is one of the fine st micro local sites I’ve seen is doing a wonderful job. Secondly, 9 out of 10 stories occur from tips. Just look on each tv, radio and newspaper website for their tipline.
      members of no2decatur took time off work and spent a day emailing and calling every possible media outlet to get the word out.
      Could be why stories are so heavily tilted toward Midway Woods.
      COD residents should do the same!

      1. First, I was not criticizing small, micro-local news outlets such as our fine DM blog and other sources. My reaction was to the three TV news stories referenced above.
        Second, I have already emailed the reporter for the local FOX TV story with my concerns (including links to stories on DM). As soon as I have time I will email the others, too.
        Next on my list is the city commissioners! Maybe that’s backwards, but I felt pretty strongly about the lack of any interviews or inclusion of the viewpoints of the majority of Decaturites.

      2. Since Midway only has 66 houses or 30 kids targeted for annexation, we had to spin a story of deceit and conspiracy. Peggy and Mayor F mentioned they didn’t want all of Midway, but we were able to get the press to pick up our story about a Neighborhood Association conspiracy to take the entire 750 homes. The local news really likes this kind of story and didn’t check their facts. Hence Midway Woods has grabbed the headlines of this discussion.

        Now all we need is for City of Decatur residents to tell a story about how kids learning in a trailor for a year longer is better than forcing development of new facilities brought on by outsider kids. We have to count on media not looking into how the Museum School built the top science program in just 3 years while in trailors. Maybe the story is CoD Schools threatened by orphans, poor, and poor planning young couples.

        1. <<Since Midway only has 66 houses or 30 kids targeted for annexation, we had to spin a story of deceit and conspiracy??
          Midwayresident: so if I e-mail the address shown below I won't get a petition to include all of Midway Woods into the current annexation?

          [email protected]

          No it's not on the official list, but the Board of Midway Woods Neighborhood Annexation is definitely trying it's best to get included. Go on their website http://www.midwaywoodsneighborhood.com/pollsurvey-regarding-annexation/
          and see that they have a "survey" that they sent to all 700 households in Midway Woods and then once they tabulate "The results of this poll will be summarized and presented to the neighborhood and possibly to the city of Decatur leadership."
          It appears you are the ones who are belatedly trying to spin a story of deceit and conspiracy.
          If they isn't a dishonest backdoors attempt to try get annexed I don't know what is.

          1. pay to send your kids to City of Decatur or
          2. move to City of Decatur

          stop asking for me and the other seniors in this neighborhood to pay for your child's private school education (COD). It's easier for you for me to pay additional $2k in taxes then for you to pay $12k in school expenses, but is that fair to me?

            1. My understanding is because she was trying to be responsive to the annexation requests they’ve gotten from folks in your neighborhood. City of Decatur staff is big on “due diligence”, apparently even to non-residents.

              None of the commissioners or staff have stated that they want to annex Midway Woods. I’m not saying you shouldn’t voice your concerns or give your view on why she attended, but it’s all just conjecture at this point.

              1. I believe That is exactly Unincorporated’s point. If they are not interested why the need to be so responsive to the neighborhood of nonresidents who technically aren’t even included (yet?) on the agenda. Just asking.

                1. If she had not come, COD would have been criticized for NOT being responsive in having a discussion and answering questions and I’ll bet you would have said that too.

                2. Because they’re trying to cover all the bases so they aren’t criticized for ignoring certain areas, since they’ve said they’re only going to look at this one time for the foreseeable future?

                  My question to you in return is this: Why would the city of Decatur (or Ms. Merriss specifically) be interested in annexing Midway Woods?

                  1. There are so many unanswered questions I couldn’t even begin to address that question. Until we hear something more concrete I guess it’s all conjecture, however, if your taxes could potentially go up 40% in the first year and no onecould give you any clear and definitive answers AND you were nearing retirement, wouldn’t you be on edge and apprehensive? Secondly, if annexation is or isnt the agenda for all of Midway Woods why not just com out either way? Wouldnt a responsive local governing body do so?

                    1. Yes, I would be on edge too if I were in that situation.

                      But it’s pretty clear now that the city and the commissioners aren’t going to state an opinion on any of these annexation areas until they have all the necessary info. I just want to make sure it’s clear to everyone that no one at the city or on the commission has given an opinion yet. It seemed like in previous conversations we had sort of convinced ourselves that they had.

            2. I see your point, at the top of the Midway Woods Survey page it says:

              Midway Woods Annexation Poll/Survey- *This is not a petition*

              And, it doesn’t gather information required to be on a petition, it’s a petition!? That’s some trojan horse kind of move! I’m so dumb, I might have titled it “Petition”.

              By the way, check the boundaries of Area D. I think that’s pretty good evidence that CoD is interested in <10% of Midway Woods.

              Lastly, if I'm 70 and live in a nice house in Midway Woods appraised at $150k. I'm paying $730 a year in county property taxes. If my taxes go up 50% (simple math assumption), then I will be paying $30.42 per month. This would cause me to lose my house? You're right saying $2000 a year is scarier! And old people are easily scared. 😉

              1. Um, folks on a fixed income often ARE at the point where $30 per month does make a difference. There’s no give in one’s budget when one is of an age when you can’t work extra hours or take on an extra job. Pensions and Social Security paymens are fixed. Interest bearing accounts nowadays can yield less than $30/month. Double coupons are already in use. My father is not in dire straights, but it has amused me to see this former business type with no domestic skills become a coupon wizard in the grocery store. A fixed income has no play in it. If the money isn’t there, there’s no options for getting more. Usually the last resort is selling one’s home but that can be devastating for folks who counted on staying there forever.

                1. Interest bearing accounts nowadays can yield less than $30/month.
                  ____________________

                  That actually understates the problem. To yield $30/month in an FDIC insured savings account right now, you’d need a balance of about $45,000 (rough calculation). Obviously there are a lot of people out there who don’t have that. And even that $30 isn’t making you better off because inflation is a lot higher than the paltry 1 percent or less the bank is offering to hold your savings.

                  It amazes me that we don’t see more media attention to this issue. The Fed’s interest rate policies have been a massive tax on seniors and anyone who dares to save their money. If you are a senior citizen who dutifully saved for retirement the government is robbing you blind with impunity right now.

                  1. Should a senior who can’t scrape together $30 a month, turn down the opportunity to increase their property value by 20% or $30,000? That sounds penny wise and pound foolish.

                    I might see it as a way to pay for future medical needs or to make up for other issues with my nest egg. The tricky part is how to tap into the ‘annexation lottery’ when you’re a senior without giving up your home before you’re ready.

                    Defer the taxes? Home equity line of credit which gets paid off upon sale of the home, etc.? Ask your kids if they want to pay it since they’re reap the benefits of owning the higher valued house?

                    It would take 80 years to make the tax increase = the home equity increase. Sounds like a problem worth solving particularly for the poor.

                    1. In my experience, for the elderly, the future is now. The medical bills are now. The burden of home maintenance is now. Home equity loans and reverse mortgages are no longer easy to get. Any loans are hard to get when one has no future earning potential. Being elderly can be a rewarding and financially secure time of life for some. But for many, it is full of physical and emotional struggles, if not downright pain. Doing what’s necessary to prepare one’s house for sale and going through with all the steps is a formidable task. Family willing, available, and able to help may or may not exist. Leaving one’s home tips some into depression or even worsens developing dementia. You can’t blame those elderly residents who just want to be left in peace in their own homes.

                    2. Excellent post. I totally appreciate and respect this. Change can be devastating for elderly and ‘traditional’ logic doesn’t often prevail.

                      My only hope is that they are patiently informed of their options by someone other than a self-serving, annexation extremists. And after careful consideration, they make their well-informed decision.

                2. Correct, Pro side doesn’t look at how this will affect their neighbors. and the increase will be much more than that in years 2-5 when property values will increase. This shows me you have only spoken to your neighbors who are like you. I moved over here because it wasn’t in Decatur. You moved here knowing it wasn’t. The market dropped, you had kids, you won’t sell your house at a loss and now you want me to pay for your mistakes. I’m fairly certain all of Midway Woods won’t be annexed this time, but Midway Woods Neighborhood Assoc. went to Peggy Merris first THEN told the neughborhood. So yes, there is a trust issue here.besides this is the second survey and they never posted those results. They never said why they would give the results to the city nor if the results were unfavorable to annex would they still send those results to the city. Besides if there are opposing sides getting petitions what purpose does it serve MIdway Woods Neighborhood Assocation to send tuheir results to the Board?
                  Everyone on that is married with (or about to have) children, so it is painffully obvious why.

                  1. Midway I am amongst the elderly. I love my home and still love my neighborhood. My property value going up does me no good until I keel over. Now if I planned to move on 5 years it would make a difference. I can tell by your post you haven’t say across the table from over 50t seniors and listened to their stories of when they bought their home over 30 years ago. Besides they are old not stupid as you imply

  22. Bah. This thread is too long and confusing. Can someone please just tell me if I should be for or against annexation?

  23. Regardless if the annexation proceeds, Decatur will still find it necessary to increase revenues for the school system and city services. Some revenue can be generated from higher parking charges, permits and user fees but the most new revenue can be generated through continuing to redevelop downtown. City Commisioners will need some support when they facilitate new projects. It may be necessary to grant variances involving density, parking or transitions to single-family districts. Adding multi-family units and offices will add vitality and revenue – revenue that will enable stable taxes for single-family homeowners. The number of one story buildings and parking lots in downtown that are within a few hundred yards of the Marta station is evidence of an inefficient use of land and transit resources.

    1. The space I covet most, on behalf of Decatur development, is that occupied by AT&T across the street from the East Lake station. In addition to the property that wraps around the Wahoo Grill/Condor Automotive/tattoo parlor parcel, there is the lovely old building on the SW corner of East Lake/Park Pl. I have no idea what is housed in those buildings, but it doesn’t seem like huge numbers of people come & go. I keep wondering if there are huge, cavernous rooms, each with one rack of servers sitting in the middle. Now that everything is optic fiber and digital and tiny… Obviously, I’m not an engineer and have no idea what I’m talking about. I just have thought for years how wonderful it would be to have all that space occupied by people living and working instead of servers or switches or whatever is there now.

      1. The building facing the East Lake MARTA is a Central Office, and it is not going anywhere. It does not require allot of workers, but if you have an AT&T phone, Broadband or U-Verse TV your signal is likely going through switches in this building.

        The rest of the AT&T property is a training facility for outdoor line technicians. It does not get a huge amount of traffic, and could probably be bought by an ambitious developer.

      2. Pierce is correct. The AT&T buildings are used for multiple purposes, including housing central office equipment and training facilities.

        You may not always see a lot of traffic there, but those buildings serve a critical function for southeast AT&T operations. For example, employees come from all over the southeast to attend training classes. Those employees stay in Decatur-area hotels and eat at Decatur-area restaurants. Thus, not only does the city benefit from the commercial taxes paid on those properties, its businesses also see revenues from the training attendees.

        1. That is all good to know. The buildings present such a closed aspect, with no interaction with the sidewalk or beyond, as a passerby it’s easy to assume not much is going on there and it’s all under-utilized. It’s too bad such prime, MARTA-proximate property is more or less permanently tied up in a way that, even though it contributes economically to our town, doesn’t participate in the streetscape, but there it is. I’m not expressing that very well, but hopefully my meaning is apparent. Anywho, it makes it even more important, IMO, to optimize redevelopment of other nearby commercial properties.

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