Decatur City Manager Recommends Only Annexing Two Northern Commercial-Heavy Parcels

Patch reports this evening that Decatur City Manager Peggy Merriss this evening recommended during the annexation work session that the City Commission only annex two heavily commercial areas, the Suburban Plaza bright green parcel on the map and the purple Emory Commons (Publix) parcel in the northwest.

Some single-family homes and apartments are also included in these parcels, but a total count of potential new residents wouldn’t be available until Tuesday morning.  However, the CSD’s annexation study group estimated in October that it could anticipate 40 new students initially in the purple area (A) and 77 if the green area (B) if annexed.

Due to the fact that so many parcels in these two areas are commercial, the City Manager suggested that this annexation may not require a referendum.  (Think the recent College Avenue annexation.) Speaking of which, according to Patch, Mayor Bill Floyd noted that such an annexation attempt could take years considering how long the College Avenue commercial annexation took.  Of the other parcels, Ms. Merriss said that the city should annex the United Methodist Children’s home eventually and should continue to work with residents in surrounding residential areas who still desire to be annexed by Decatur.

The Powerpoint of the city manager’s presentation should be posted to the city’s website Tuesday morning.


66 thoughts on “Decatur City Manager Recommends Only Annexing Two Northern Commercial-Heavy Parcels”

  1. 117 students initially. A little over 4 classrooms worth assuming a class size of 25-27 kids. The two nearest schools would be Westchester and Clairemont but it would work to send some to Glennwood too, although the latter would increase transportation costs. Given the attraction of Decatur for families with young children, my guess is that it would work out to be one extra classroom each for Westchester, Clairemont, and Glennwood, one for the 4/5, and some kids for RMS and DHS. Of course, soon the bolus of children would move on up and force something to happen at FAVE, and eventually hit RMS and DHS. Not sure the single 4/5 concept can survive another 4-5 classrooms worth hitting it, even with construction. Especially now that we realize how huge transportation costs are–over a million/year already–and we’re trying to limit the number of kids allowed to take the bus. So six K-5s and expand RMS and DHS? Make College Heights all preK? Or keep the 0-3 there and make six preK-5s? No matter how you arrange them, it’s seven schools for the 10 and under crowd. Deja vu! Or do we need eight?

    What will happen with voting districts?

    1. That’s 117 students across 12 grades – about 10 per grade. At the E-3 level, that could mean one or two extra kids per classroom at Clairemont and Glennwood. Not nearly as big a deal.

      1. I was thinking that it’s unlikely that the children will be evenly distributed across the 12 grades. The current CSD school age distribution is heavily weighted towards the younger age groups. I would imagine that might be even more true for an area approaching annexation as families with preschool age children move in to take advantage of CSD schools as the surrounding school districts continue to deteriorate. Or did the CSD committee looking at this project an even distribution?

        This is all moot if Judd’s comment means that less residences will be included that what the above statement indicates.

        1. I think it is highly unlikely all the kids are in elementary school, either. Using either standard doesn’t help.

    2. Decatur Patch reports that it’s only 511 residents and 42 school age kids in the latest proposal. That’s a lot less than 117 school age kids. It’s still one more increase in a student population that is rising in all corners of Decatur, but it’s not an overwhelming one-time surge.

  2. I was out of town and couldn’t make the meeting. I’m assuming that because the City Manager has recommended specific areas, that a financial analysis was performed, but I’m having trouble finding it. Can someone post the link?

    1. The report will be posted sometime today. There was a financial analysis done on the revised areas A3 and B3, and it showed a revenue gain for the City. The analysis omitted the potentially biggest ticket item of a new fire station. It seems to remain uncertain whether a new station would be needed for Decatur to keep its Class 2 certification, which lowers insurance costs. The recommendation seemed to be to wait a couple of years after annexation and reassess. No one asked how much it would cost if it did become necessary and what that would do to the bottom line, so I’d put an asterisk next to the financial analysis.

      There was also a recommendation to annex partial parcels and a group of houses in Midway, but I don’t think there was a financial analysis. The biggest impact for these annexations would be on CSD, so these recommendations were presumably from a City service point of view only and pending school board review.

      1. The report and presentation are now posted.

        A correction to what I said above: There is an expense line for “fire”. I don’t know if that’s maintenance of a unit or the cost of a station or what exactly.

        From what I can tell reading the report, not including the fire expense, here are the annual numbers:
        A3 would bring in 429,500 and cost 366,500. A gain of $63,000
        B3 would bring in 395,840 and cost 382,500. A gain of $13,340.

        Peggy Merriss said that of those expenses would not need to be reduplicated if both areas were annexed, but I can’t recall the details.

        The fire expense would be an additional $605,000.

        1. Admittedly not having read the report, over what time period is the $605,000?. It it’s short term, that would build a new, albeit small, fire station. If it’s longer term, that would be paying for a couple of additional firefighter positions.

          1. Seems to be an annual number, given the lay out of the numbers in the report. But that’s just a guess. As I say, no one asked the costs and there were no questions from the audience, so this didn’t get aired out in the meeting. My guess would be that’s it’s the annual cost of maintaining a full crew but not of building a new station, buying land, etc.

            1. Yeah, but there’s no space for a whole other crew in the exiting stations. I guess we’ll find out more.

  3. The recommendations to not annex were based on the overwhelming petitions against annexation in the resisential areas, especially both sides of Midway Woods according to Peggy Merris, however 5 homeowners on Midway will be annexed because all 5 agreed.
    These recommendation were made without the analysis from the school board, which when one of the Commissioners asked about the school report Mayor Floyd said an emphatic no and requested Peggy to move on.
    The reprt will be posted on COD site later today, but their was no finacial gain for the City with any areas but A2 and B2 Subrban Plaza and Publix shopping center.
    Regardless I had a good night sleep last night.

  4. A correction on the report here. The recommendation was to annex revised versions of areas A & B, named A3 and B3. The changes were made because the only response from residents in these areas was opposed to annexation, so some of the residential was taken out of A & B. How much residential remains, won’t be known till tomorrow, I guess.

  5. So the city decides to cherry-pick primo commercial properties from, um, thriving DeKalb County? Stay classy, Decatur!

    1. Michael, you are spot on regarding how I feel about this proposal. Some of the major employers in this part of DeKalb pay no taxes to DeKalb, as I understand it. Think Emory, Emory Healthcare, VA Hospital, CDC – tremendous infrastructure burdens on the county due to higher traffic and higher school enrollment due to families wanting to live near jobs. I’m furious at the pickoff of two of the remaining revenue-generating parcels that we have in our area.

      1. In related news, DeKalb County held more than $10 million in HOST money from Decatur since the turn of the century and is only now paying it yearly. But Decatur will never see any of that $10 million. Two wrongs don’t make a right certainly, but still…everything in context!

    2. Well, right now Decatur has a relatively limited amount of commercial property (with many of its major non-residential properties being tax-exempt government and educational institutions), and the recommended areas to be annexed looks pretty ‘normal’ and contiguous with the present city boundaries–this isn’t some weirdo gerrymander where a limb is tossed out from the currently boundaries to snag far-flung commercial properties while bypassing residential areas. And DeKalb County (plus the DeKalb County school system) is corrupt and dysfunctional, wasting huge amounts of its revenue, whereas the City of Decatur (and its school system) utilizes its resources well. Under the circumstances, it’s hard for me to get too worked up about the injustice of Decatur annexing some immediately adjacent commercial properties.

      1. Decatur: a neighborly city of homes, schools, places of worship, and commercial properties annexed against their will to pay for our lavish public services and schools.

        1. As long as the city does a good job of providing the services they’re supposed to provide to the commercial property owners, I don’t see a big injustice with those businesses paying COD taxes. Sure, businesses subsidize residents, but that’s true everywhere, and to the extent that Decatur is doing relatively well economically because it’s functional (and because it levies high taxes but in return provides high-quality services), those businesses immediately adjacent to the city have been benefiting from their location while not paying in.

  6. I do understand that Decatur needs more revenue. But, Dekalb is in bad shape due to the fact that many of the middle and upper income people live in cities thus reducing revenue. Also due to the fact that those in charge of Dekalb have done a sorry job of managing the money of the county.Even though Dekalb still owes Decatur, these kind of annexations of only money producing property are not good for the rest of us in Dekalb County. I am almost 70 so I will not have to pay school taxes. So, this kind of land grabbing won’t really affect my taxes as a whole, but it may hurt others if their taxes go up..

  7. So is this it? The final final? I can relax and not worry about getting sucked into Decatur and its high taxes?

    1. 99% a done deal. It will be final on Dec. 17 when Board makes it final…form now. I have a sneaking suspection this will come up again in another 4-5 years. Ive lived in Midway Woods since 08 and this is the 2nd time. I guess its on a presidential cycle.

    1. Why is that? 1) GGD doesn’t have any kind of case. 2) Whatever happens, the WM is going forward. The City could not rescind the approval without a huge legal fight that the City would lose and I think the City knows that.

      1. Oh, Steve. You must work for Selig or Walmart. Do you not understand that GGD’s ATTORNEYS HAVE IDENTIFIED A SIGNIFICANT ISSUE FOR LEGAL CHALLENGE! It’s true, it’s on their website:

        Also, this is what I get when I don’t use a 🙂 or a 😉

        1. And of course, “significant issue for legal challenge” = “slam-dunk legal victory”, amirite? 😉

  8. So, COD said let’s annex all this cool property and make Decatur a bigger, more viable place. CSD rattled the sword in it’s scabbard and formed a committee proving that it would cost us $, ruin our schools, degrade our quality of life, and end the world as we know it. People wrang their hands, gnashed their teeth, posted on blogs. The city hung its head and apologetically offered up only the $ producing property with hardly any children to appease CSD and the wringers and gnashers. Now, DHers and county folk declare war on COD. What will the poor city do? Or, maybe, its a big conspiracy. Peggy and Phyliss met over a couple bottles of Pinot, planned it all out on a napkin and executed “Plan – Taxpaying Fools”. Hmm…

    1. “Wrang!” That’s a new word for me, but I like it!

      Reminds me of my teenage daughter’s word for “freaked out.” It’s not “She freaked out,” it’s “She froke out.”

      1. Darn fingers. How about wrung? wringed? Clasped and unclasped their sweaty palms? Ruined the whole mood of my yarn….

        1. No, no, I loved it! Totally went with the mood of your yarn. I thought you were clever enough to have made it up. 😉

      1. Yes. DHer is a Druid Hills resident. Although, that’s a pretty big area if you go by the folks that attend DHS. I do not mean disrespect to DHers. I have good friends there. Entire post made with tongue firmly placed in cheek.

  9. To those who think the city of Decatur should not annex adjacent commercial parcels in order to expand its tax digest: what do you think it should do instead?

    1. They don’t need to expand their tax digest, but since they feel so strongly that richer is better, perhaps they should focus on filling in the existing gaps that are within their borders.

    2. Well, by that logic, the city’s borders should be North DeKalb Mall, then, amirite? It’s not like the city is by any means insolvent. In fact, I would like to see Decatur annex the city of Atlanta and apply its good government practices. Everything that I moved to Atlanta for in the late ’80s is best exemplified by Decatur.

    3. Pay for City government and schools from your existing tax base. Are you suggesting that there was no alternative to annexation? That the by and large quite wealthy residents of COD can’t afford to fund the government they’ve created?

    4. Over the last 20 years the residential tax base has grown 362% and the commercial tax base has grown 94%. Why the difference?

      Have we built THAT much more residential property? Or (my theory) have residential tax valuations outpaced commercial valuations? Look into fixing the tax digest and you may find a lot of revenue. Maybe even a tax break for residents.

      1. +1

        And I’d note that a quick review of some commercial assessed valuations suggests something is way off. How about just publishing the existing commercial digest so we can crowd source a solution?

        1. Kind of true. The city outsources the work to Claudia Lawson (not the county). Our city commission has the ultimate duty to get it right, defend the digest during appeals and correct errors or hire someone who will.

          1. Claudia Lawson’s shop is responsible for the billing, not the appraisals. Appraisals are a different organization within the County government structure.

      2. The rent is too dang high! I remember when Jaunt hair salon moved out of Decatur. Someone said they were paying 6K each month for rent. That’s a lot of hair to make the rent! Decatur is going to run off all the mom-and-pop stores if they’re not careful and, like someone already said, it’ll be a ghosttown. Or, zombietown.

  10. Congrats to Peggy for working with CSD & residents to make the best recommendation for annexation. I’m proud of our city

  11. I’ve always respected and admired CoD even as I am honest with myself that my family can’t afford to live there–at least not as homeowners, and frankly renting would be a challenge too given my family’s size and income and the fact that I really wanted to live in a single family home. Trade-offs. Anyway, I may never live IN Decatur, but I have lived about a mile from its borders for 7 years now. It makes me sad to say that I am starting to think of your city as a bad neighbor. Enjoy your revenue, guys. Maybe you’re just getting in while the getting is good, eh?

  12. Oy vey. As a resident of unicorporated DeKalb, I hate this. Our poor county keeps losing revenue sources. It feels as if just a few small pockets — Druid Hills, Northlake/Lakeside area — will be left to fund the entire county, given how badly the real estate meltdown affected South Dekalb. I feel like the last rat on a sinking ship. Perhaps my perception is wrong. I hope so.

  13. I say this as a Decatur resident who cares about the metro area as a whole, including DeKalb: City limits are not the same as unassailable walls. If the surrounding county fails, Decatur will be affected negatively.

  14. Check out the article in today by the owners of some of the commercial real estate being targeted by the City of Decatur for annexation. An interesting battle brewing.

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