Decatur: Meet the Proposed Annexation Areas

As Judd pointed out in the previous annexation recommendation post, the actual annexation areas put forward by City Manager Peggy Merriss were shadows of their former selves.  Areas of Interest A.3 and B.3 in the city’s presentation (PDF) are basically drawn around nearly all the property owners who said they didn’t want to be included in the city of Decatur.

These area don’t achieve the goal of cleaning up the city’s boundary, but they do provide the city with some commercially heavy areas – Area A.3 is 97% and Area B.3 is 62% commercial – a frequent, publicly stated goal of the commission, who is openly worried about the great reliance on residential property taxes in the city. (Residential taxes account for more than 4/5ths of the city’s revenues currently.)

The city’s cost/income calculations for the two areas are as follows…

Area A.3

  • Expenditures – $344,500
  • Revenues – $429,520
  • Net Diff – $85,020

Area B.3

  • Expenditures – $355,000
  • Revenues – $395,840
  • Net Diff – $40,080

Patch reports that collectively these two areas would add 511 residents to the city, with 42 of them under the age of 16 and eligible to join CSD schools.  The Decatur City Commission is scheduled to vote on Ms. Merriss’ recommendation at its final 2012 meeting, December 17th.  If approved, the city would then try to get the annexation brought up and voted upon in the Georgia legislature’s January 2013 session.  Next steps would be dependent on whether a referendum was needed or not.  Such heavily commercial areas don’t necessarily need referendums to pass.

In related news, DeKalb County officials continue to discuss the creation of a “City of DeKalb”, which could halt all future city incorporations and restrict future annexations.

61 thoughts on “Decatur: Meet the Proposed Annexation Areas”

  1. The revenue numbers from B3 confuse me. Is that current revenue from the stores at Suburban or anticipated revenues from WalMart et al? I would think that number would be vastly higher if the latter.

  2. How is Decatur going to get this passed? Is the DeKalb delegation going to support an annexation that is simply about moving tax revenues from unicorporated DeKalb to Decatur? Will the delegation vote against the wishes of the property owners?

    Or will Mayor Floyd cut a deal with the GOP and take this measure before the entire general assembly and remove its local legislation status?

  3. ” Is the DeKalb delegation going to support an annexation that is simply about moving tax revenues from unicorporated DeKalb to Decatur?”

    Good question. I know I will be writing a few letters to get an explanation on why this should be allowed.

    1. State law: the county from which the taxes are pulled basically has no say in the matter. Write to your state legislators.

      1. Nor do the annexed businesses, apparently. But hey, Decatur NEEDZ MOAR REVENUE!!!! to maintain adult exercise equipment in Glenlake park, to build high-end covered bike parking at the library, and other core functions of government.

        1. Businesses are not citizens. Maybe in a few years they will be, but not yet. At that point we can figure out how many votes they get. I vote we make it proportional to income/revenue.

          1. How about votes being based on the proportion of your income (if citizen) or profits (corporations) that is paid in taxes? Those who contribute a low proportion have lower voting power than those who contribute a higher proportion.

            1. You’re thinking of Plutocracy.
              In the long run they don’t work out very well for the ruled or the rulers.

              1. Actually, I was thinking of something a little different than plutocracy aka rule by the wealthy (and isn’t that what is always in effect? Just unofficially?). I was thinking of rule by those who make the largest proportional contribution to the common good (aka tax revenue). So someone could earn a lot but if they use lots of tax loopholes and only pay say 7% of their income in taxes, they would only get say 7 votes to use. Someone else could earn a lot less but pay 25% of their income in taxes and they would get 25 votes. I know this is a crude concept and would need refining so that it wasn’t a regressive tax but isn’t there a political philosophy in there somewhere?

                Just playing with the concept because allowing corporations to vote was mentioned and I was thinking of how to even the playing field so that it wasn’t a simple relationship of more$=more votes. In my heart, I actually prefer simple participatory democracy, one vote for everyone for everything, like a giant town hall meeting. Impractical but I love the concept. And I would usually get my way because I would show up for every single vote, no matter how big or small, while everyone else was texting or watching the game.

                1. You would end up with a consortium of the wealthy buying influence over the legislative process in order to accumulate even more wealth and build dynastic family structures over time. Soon we’re back in 14th century feudalism digging potatoes for our lord.

                  If Adelson had such a straight up legal way to buy influence instead of gambling it on con jobs like Rove’s American Crossroads, Williard would be in the White House come January signing the dissolution of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

                  1. Don’t understand because I thought my scheme resulted in less votes for the wealthy unless they were willing to give up their tax advantages and be taxed at a higher proportion of their income. I figured that would never happen. I thought it was antifeudalism. But I never took a single poli sci course in college so what do I know? I’ve always liked the simplicity of one person-one vote and a flat tax rate. But then people explain all sorts of things about regressive taxes and economic impacts of the tax code and I get discouraged and suspicious. Unless we’re talking quantum physics, the genetic code, or great religious mysteries of faith, I find it hard to trust systems that cannot be clearly explained.

          2. Yes, I know they’re not citizens and not entitled to vote. And that is exactly why Decatur is taking their money. That’s the whole point of this money grab.

      1. While I’m not saying that this is anything other than a revenue grab, it’s hard to say it’s a new low.

        I don’t have the numbers, so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but the cities of Dunwoody and Brookhaven snatched far more commercial property than Decatur is planning. That’s the giant area around Perimeter Mall, including the Ravinia complex.

        Of course, neither of these cities has a school system, so perhaps there’s a difference there. Still, I think it’s overreaching to call this a new low.

    1. The Atlanta metro has been awash in new incorporations and annexations for the past several years, pretty much all of which have been predicated on money and deeply-rooted distrust of county government’s ability to manage it effectively. What’s so different about this one that makes it a new low? Seems like the same old story to me.

    2. Decatur has reached a new low for COD itself. But since it grabbed the land along with Avondale on East College. I guess it is not a new low, just another low.

  4. The saddest aspect of this? Ace Hardware will not only be fighting competition with Walmart, but paying higher taxes, to boot. And booted they might get if they can’t handle the pressure. It’s a lot to handle. Decatur’s greed might be the end of what I like best about Decatur: the locally owned stores. The tax burden of the property owners will be passed on to the tenants. Goodbye Rainbow Foods? Goodbye Finders Keepers Boutique? Goodbye Eagle Eye Bookshop?

    Good grief.

      1. Boy that’s some curvy borders! Almost, but not quite, as good as the Clairemont East voting district being entirely west of Clairemont West.

      2. Incorrect. Ace Hardware is at 1404 Scott Boulevard. That is the last property along Scott included on the new B-3 annexation area.

        1. I thought the store’s office was in 1400 Scott Blvd. Not sure how that affects taxes. Guess they can fight it out.

  5. Seems to me we should have never entertained the thought of annexation.

    We cannot handle more kids in the school system without new revenue…so annexing just residential would not fly…now, apparently, the fiscally appropriate thing to do to reduce the residential tax burden (primarily annexing commercial property) won’t fly cause it would change the character of Decatur.

    So what’s the answer folks? Maintain a high burden on residential taxes and keep status quo (making it more difficult for people to afford to live here as time moves on, especially our teachers, police etc)? How do we get more commercial to land in the city limits of Decatur to reduce the tax burden?

    Both these parcels are going to be heavily affected by the Clifton Corridor future development and they are obvious gateways to our city…who do we want to drive the development typology… Dekalb County or City of Decatur?

  6. Assuming the projected revenues are based solely on what’s currently in SP, then I have to wonder if it’s really worth this whole process to net roughly $125,000 in additional revenue. Is COD that hard up for what’s basically a minute amount comparatively in the overall income picture? There must be something I’m missing (at least, I hope there is)!

    1. Silly Cuba. It’s so they can drive out Walmart and replace it with a local, sustainable business like Target or Trader Joes. The money is irrelevant, it’s all about morality!

      1. Walmart is a done deal. Done. Permits granted. This will not affect the Walmart deal. Perhaps the opposition by Good Growth DeKalb will, but not this annexation plan.

  7. Here’s the horse trading as I see it-
    Decatur gets these two parcels and agrees not to object to the City of Dekalb proposal.

  8. Scott- this is different because citizens in Chamblee, Brookhaven, Dunwoody asked to be incorporated or annexed. Not so with these commercial properties.
    GM- What Decatur does is sharpen the pencil on expenses and re-examine downtown and East Decatur Station as the future sources for revenue. Perhaps provide development incentives. There is a lot of redevelopment that can happen on properties within 1/2 mile of Marta. If the gateways are important, sit down with DeKalb and discuss needs and common interests. Rader and Gannon also represent Decatur. Development regs can be changed in DeKalb.
    AMB – The City of DeKalb has no lift – that is to say it is going no where.

  9. The reason cities grow is to increase the tax base. So I don’t understand this common theme where we think the city should grow only for altruistic reasons. If that was the case, Atlanta would be the size of Decatur, and there would be thirty small cities all around it.

      1. Does anyone know the “thinking” behind the fact that commercial annexations are allowed to pass the legislature and require no referendum among property owners? I feel like I knew at one point…

        1. I don’t know the thinking but will throw out my two cents anyway. One, corporations don’t have voting rights. Two, by and large a business will vote to keep its taxes as low as possible and not incorporate. That makes sense for them, but it may not make sense for the local population. The legislature then acts as the “neutral” arbitrator between the two interests. Since the main body usually defers to the local representatives, whoever has the ear of the local reps owns the vote.

  10. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. As a resident of unincorporated DeKalb, I feel like the last rat on a sinking ship. Druid Hills and Northlake/Lakeside are going to be the only areas funding DeKalb County.

  11. I realize that this is mostly a self-interested comment, so feel free to throw virtual pies at my head, but I really hate what this proposal would do to N. Decatur Road. So, starting from a block or so (?) west of the Clairmont intersection until just before Clairmont Circle will be inside CoD, then a tiny portion will be outside (unincorporated DeKalb), then we have the approximately two-block section (where I live) that is inside the city limits, then there will be a tiny section outside the city limits, then the portion that is close to the Scott Blvd./Medlock Road intersection will be inside? That’s a mess. I guess we’ve ceded any hope of clarifying the boundaries and just settled on eff them up completely as long as we get commercial property?

    Also, haven’t we run into issues before with trying to maintain the small portion of the road that is Decatur’s responsibility when most of that section is in the county? This will be brilliant. We’ll have nicely paved and maintained road and sidewalks for an eighth of a mile, then a pot-hole filled mess for an eighth-of a mile, and back and forth.

    1. Also, yes, I get that I am whining about a situation (road is partially in the county and partially in the city) that was the case when we moved to this house. But this will be worse.

      1. Got me thinking. Shouldn’t we land grab that east portion of the Scott-Decatur-Medlock pie where the church is, but may soon be a strip center? Pick and choose, pick and choose?

  12. “Spoke annexation” is what you call it. A city owns strips of land (roads, right-of-ways, whatever necessary) to ensure there are no “islands” of land that it wants to go after. The properties targeted must be contiguous; island properties cannot be annexed (unless you’re working in reverse, where land you want to annex is surrounded by already-annexed property).

    But if it’s any consolation, the County portion of Sycamore Drive is in a LOT better shape than the City portion of Sycamore Drive.

  13. City of homes, schools and places of worship in search of generous commercial properties for mutually rewarding long-term relationship. (OK, rewards might be one-way.) Prefer easy walking range but will consider longer distance romance. Beginning to recognize that the walkable environment can include broken sidewalks next to heavily trafficked thoroughfares occasionally crossing entrances to large, mostly empty – but shareable! – parking lots.

    Eager to try new adventures and expand my boundaries. Want to grow, and only nominally tied to it being in a smart way. I mean, smart growth is fine in principle, but everything has its time and place. Am I right?

    Don’t like to admit this, but I’m sometimes attracted to properties with a future I’ve occasionally bad-mouthed – like big box retailers and inexpensive apartments packed with DINKs looking for a good, fairly expensive time. Let’s be fair: they deserve festivals and terrific days, too, don’t they? Receptive to open relationships: I still have some boutique shoppes, yoga studios, chic restaurants and craft brew pubs myself that make my sweet little ticker go pitter-patter, but they just can’t seem to support me in the lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed.

    Also feeling like my single family base is hoping for someone else to share the burden, and – to be honest – they often think it’s all about them anyway (especially those R-60/R-85 next to C-2 ingrates). Really gets on my last nerve. LOL.

    I do bring some baggage along. Have been hurt in recent years by suitors who promised exciting, multi-use of my downtown area [ 😉 ] but who gave me only vacant spaces in my heart [ 🙁 ]. Can you imagine being treated like that after the compromises I made? And they have the gall to blame their behavior on the economy? Puhlease!

    Hoping to see you soon in my special someone pedestrian area. I’ll be the eye-catching little number in the Prius or maybe on my scooter, soy milk latte in hand, waiting patiently in line at one of the grandfathered drive-throughs.

    Cognitively, Dissonantly Yours,

    Sustainable Me *

    P.S. Please reply with recent pics (nothing NSFW!) and copy of current county valuation.

    P.P.S. Already have enough rug rats of my own; you must be childless or willing to leave any little ones with the ex.

    * (or hoping to be)

  14. People in the City of Decatur want the money commerce pays for government service but don’t want to provide the services people demand from government.

    Good to know. Decatur=Dunwoody

    1. That makes no sense – please explain. Decatur provides more municipal services than any other city in DeKalb County.

  15. Everyone who talks about grabbing anything from DeKalb County is flat wrong. All the property stays in the unincorporated DeKalb tax base. Nothing changes there.
    The only thing different is municipal services (police, fire, parks, planning) are provided for by the new city. The county no longer has to pay for those services and rightfully should cut back and shift those responsibilities to the cities. That is what was supposed to happen with all the incorporations in both DeKalb and Fulton. It is flat wrong to say the counties are worse off. They are not.
    They should not use money collected countywide to pay for services delivered to a select few anyway. That’s why Fulton was forced to create a special service district years ago — it provides city services. The countywide offerings, health, libraries, courts, the jail all continue unaffected.
    None of this is harmful to the counties.

    1. Um, you do understand that the majority of taxes (and increased, simultaneously) will go to the City instead of the County, don’t you? Saying the properties stay in the county tax base is incorrect; they only stay (physically) in the county, with a slight penance of taxes paid to the county.

      You do understand how the focus of DeKalb Police might very well be pulled away from residential areas of these unincorporated sections where the biggest taxpayers, the commercial properties, have been stripped, don’t you?

  16. Um, well, um, no. not so.
    In most counties, the county provides two levels of service, some that are countywide and to all residents whether they live in cities or not (courts, jail, health, etc) and some services limited by geography (planning, police, fire). This isn’t that complex is it.

    When the cities incorporate, the countywide services and taxes stay the same. The other services are rightly taken over by the city. Fulton police don’t patrol Atlanta, Roswell or Milton any more than DeKalb police patrol Decatur. And, Decatur residents should not pay for county police we don’t need or use. Very simple.

    And, as a frame of reference, the countywide tax rate is often equal to or greater than the city rate. And, um, it is no pittance.
    Look at Fulton County today, which was supposedly devastated by incorporation. The county tax rate is 10.2, the same as Atlanta residents pay for city services. Whoa, devastation. The new city of Johns Creek is 4.6 mills. They by the way have a fire department, police department, etc. Guess what, the county shrunk to accommodate the new city, just like it should have.

    What I do understand is the difference between a city and a county. The county police no longer serve the city. That’s kinda the point. The county police went away from Johns Creek, Milton and Sandy Springs. Those city councils then set the level of police service appropriate for those areas. The county rightfully no longer charges those areas for police service it does not provide.
    Is this that hard to understand? New city takes over service, county gets out of it. County reduces expense rightfully, city picks it up…

    How is this difficult to understand? The idea that DeKalb County is somehow harmed by incorporation is absurd and a misdirection by county officials. If you buy that, let’s talk real estate later. The county is only harmed if you believe they must continue to employ all the planners, police officers, fire fighters, etc. who are no longer needed to provide service in areas once unincorporated but now municipalized. They don’t.

  17. So, let’s follow the (not insignificant) portion of real estate taxes that goes to school systems. That won’t stay in DeKalb County – it will transfer to COD, unlike the other examples mentioned above.

    Yes, DCSD has been damaged by years of financial mismanagement, but it has also been disproportionately harmed by plummeting housing values as compared to COD. And at the end of the day, no matter how you feel about people running DCSD, the students attending DCSD schools deserve better – their prospects of getting it grow a little bit dimmer if this hacks away at DCSD revenue.

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