Lakeside Cityhood Movement Announces Arrival

By Jonathan Cribbs – editor, North Druid Hills/Briarcliff Patch
Will the Lakeside High School area find itself part of a new city?
The Lakeside City Alliance wants to find out.
The non-profit, chaired by Northlake-area resident Mary Kay Woodworth, will hold its first public meeting at Lakeside High on Feb. 13. It released the following statement Wednesday:

Citizens Group Announces Cityhood Study Initiative for Northern DeKalb County
ATLANTA, GA — February 6, 2013— A group of DeKalb County citizens announced today the formation of the Lakeside City Alliance, a non-profit group created to study the possibility and feasibility of establishing a new city in northern DeKalb County.  The Alliance is chaired by Mary Kay Woodworth, a lifelong DeKalb County resident, who lives near the Northlake Mall area.  The Alliance released a draft map of the proposed parameters of the new city, which would be bounded roughly by Interstate 85 to the west, Clairmont Road to the south, Chamblee-Tucker Road to the east and Pleasantdale Road to the north.
In announcing the creation of the Alliance study group, Woodworth noted that the proposed boundaries represent the Alliance’s efforts to define the community of interest that encompasses the proposed city.  “After years of being 50,000 citizens without a voice, we are excited about the prospect of examining a form a government that is both closer and more responsive to the people it represents,” Woodworth said.  “The Alliance will study the type of government best-suited to our area with an emphasis on allowing for more local control of police services, parks and zoning.”
Woodworth noted that “members of the Alliance are all citizens of DeKalb County, and we look forward to assessing the feasibility of a local government that integrates efficiently with the current county government.  We will study ways to fund and sustain a new city that provides services best overseen locally, while ensuring that the County can continue to provide the services it delivers best for all residents of DeKalb.”
Woodworth explained that the group will host a series of public meetings to introduce the proposed map, discuss its plans with area residents and receive feedback from interested stakeholders.  The first meeting will be held at at Lakeside High School on Wednesday, February 13.
“Today begins a careful study of the best means to provide local control to taxpayers,” Woodworth declared, “who have felt for far too long that they were powerless to control their own destinies.  It is our hope that with the formation of the Lakeside City Alliance, help is finally on the way.”
Additional information can found regarding LCA by visiting LCA’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/LakesideCityAllianceGa), website (www.lakesidealliance.org) and Yahoo! Group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lakesidealliance/)

The alliance has released a map of its proposed boundaries. To become a city, the state legislature would need to approve the idea and then voters would have to vote in favor of it.
The alliance was featured in a WSB-TV news report as well.

Legislators To Discuss ‘City of DeKalb’

By Ralph Ellis for Virginia Highland/Druid Hills Patch
Some people want to create a city out of DeKalb County’s unincorporated communities.
State senators from DeKalb County will meet this week to talk about possibly forming a “City of DeKalb.”
The meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Nov. 29 in room 450 at the State Capitol, CrossroadNews.com reported.
A City of DeKalb has been talked about for decades but the idea has gained new urgency because more cities are forming in DeKalb County, like Brookhaven. Those cities reduce the county government’s property tax revenue.
Here’s what some county officials said in the CrossRoads.com article:

  • County Commissioner Jeff Rader: “What  would be the main street and common interest. We won’t lose  the county government. We will gain another layer of government.”
  • Commissioner Lee May: “It  is not just about preserving revenue, but comprehensive planning for  the county as a whole.”
  • Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton: “The  entire county planned and put investments in infrastructure and then  for a small group to take it without compensation for the county is not  fair. … We can’t let a few people destroy one of the best counties.”

Most Residents at Meeting Unsure About Cityhood

By Jonathan Cribbs for North Druid Hills/Briarcliff Patch
About 100 people showed up at Oak Grove United Methodist Church on Monday to listen to several local politicos talk about what it would take to start a city in DeKalb County.
The vast majority of residents at a Monday meeting to learn about cityhood in northern DeKalb County said they were unsure they wanted to be part of a new city.
And everyone was even less sure about where another new city might be.
In what was billed as an information-only session hosted by the Briarcliff Woods East Neighborhood Association at Oak Grove United Methodist Church, the vast majority of 100 or so residents raised their hands to indicate they were unsure about cityhood. Only a small number showed they favored or disliked the idea.
Fran Millar, DeKalb County’s sole Republican state senator; Tom Taylor, a DeKalb state represenatative, and Dan Weber, a former state senator in DeKalb, spent roughly 90 minutes talking with residents about cityhood in the county. They spoke about everything from the necessary $30,000 cost of a study to determine a future city’s feasability to the different services a city can offer. (Peachtree Corners, for instance, is “city-light,” which means it exists almost solely to give its residents control over code enforcement and zoning and doesn’t offer much in the way of tangible services.)
No boundaries for a city were discussed. After the meeting it wasn’t clear who wanted a city, where that movement might start and what communities it might include. It was obvious that Monday’s meeting was the very beginning of a difficult process that might seek to organize swaths of residents and communities into a collective enterprise. But, this area, the North Druid Hills-Briarcliff area (or the Lakeside-Emory-Northlake area or whatever else you choose to call it), has existed for so long officially as unincorporated DeKalb County.
One resident, a marketing executive, said one of the most important questions that needs to be answered is, at its heart, about branding: “Where do we live right now?”
It’s a question that doesn’t appear to have vexed the many residents who have organized into nearby cities recently such as Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs, areas that arguably had clearer identities before they became cities.
But Millar, of Dunwoody, said it was important to look at what residents could get out of cityhood.
“When I think of North Druid Hills, this area, I think of preservation. I think of zoning,” he said. “When something goes wrong, you’ve got someone down the street you can complain to.”
Millar, Taylor and Weber also sought to dispel assumptions about cityhood – things that might drive some residents to want it in the wrong way. For instance:

  • The chances of a city getting its own school district are almost nill, Taylor said. No matter what, most of your property taxes will still continue to go to the DeKalb County School System.
  • Starting a city doesn’t mean you’re seceding from the county. You will most likely continue to pay for some county services such as water and sewer and garbage collection. About 80 percent of tax revenues will continue to go to the county, Millar said: “When cities are created, people are still part of Dekalb County.”
  • It’s a difficult battle and a slog of a process. And if you can get cityhood approved by the legislature, the residents still have to vote in favor of it.

All of this is also separate from a movement to create a City of DeKalb, which is the subject of a study committee in the legislature. Millar said he thinks it’s nearly impossible that would happen, and no legislation proposing it would make it off the floor of the House or Senate.
A number of residents expressed frustration that the meeting had no one speaking against cityhood. Although Jeff Rader, DeKalb County’s District 2 commissioner who has spoken against cityhood before, was at the meeting, he left early before making any remarks.
“You have shown us quite simply that you’re all pro-city,” one  resident shouted as a woman explained that any new city needs a  significant amount of commercial or industrial property to finance a  city without over-taxing residents. “Let’s move on to another question.”
Kevin Levitas, a former DeKalb state represenative who represented Briarcliff Woods, said at the next meeting he organizes, speakers opposing cityhood would be invited to speak. He said he was shooting for Nov. 29 as a tentative date.
No packets or heavily detailed information about cityhood was handed out. Millar, Taylor and Weber offered mostly anecdotes and general reflections on what it took to get cities started in Dunwoody and Brookhaven. Millar, for instance, said Dunwoody had 90 days to organize a police force for the city, once voted approved it – a Georgia record, he said.
“Even when these cities are created, they still have warts, believe me,” he said.
Another resident said everyone in the room needed to consider the idea for themselves and not be pushed by state legislators.
“There’s a lot of great reasons to have a city. But if you want to start a city, the leadership needs to come from you, not from state legislators,” he said.
But that sort of leadership hasn’t emerged yet.
“We don’t need to know how to [become a city] until we know why to do it,” another resident said.
What is your take on this movement? Add your comment below.
For more information, check out these links:
http://northdruidhills.patch.com//articles/curious-residents-ponder-cityhood-in-oak-grove
http://northdekalbcity.blogspot.com/
http://theotherbrookhaven.blogspot.com/