About 50 people gathered last week to learn the nuts and bolts of creating a city in north DeKalb from a panel of Dunwoody lawmakers.
The new Briarcliff Woods East Neighborhood Association (BWENA) sponsored the information-only meeting at Oak Grove Methodist Church.
“People underestimate how complicated it is,” former legislator Kevin Levitas, who hosted the meeting, said. “It takes a couple years to get a city up and running. People have to understand they are in for a very long haul, with some heated discussions.”
State Sen. Fran Millar, state Rep. Tom Taylor and former state senator Dan Weber described the process Dunwoody went through before it was incorporated.
“I am sure neighborhoods are considering it; Tucker and Leafmore have had discussions,” Levitas said, adding however, “No map is being discussed by any group. The only way to know if it is viable is to have a feasibility study that can cost $20,000 to $30,000.”
“This was an information only meeting on advantages of cityhood; political issues; and implementation after creation,” Millar said. “People want to know the negatives as well and there will be additional meetings. I don’t anticipate any new cities in the near future because a feasibility study is necessary (paid for by the citizens).”
“Whether it makes sense to pursue, each neighborhood has to make a decision,” Levitas said. “I hope it would be a grassroots effort, neighborhoods asking others to join them and not start top down.”
Levitas, who served in the Georgia House from 2007 to 2010, said he wanted people to “take a deep breath and come together” and remain civil in the discourse, respecting different opinions.
“The biggest complaints I heard was that people’s voices were not being heard,” Levitas said. “Even people on the losing side feel better about the process if they had input in process.”
A DeKalb resident who attended the meeting, Beth Nathan, said, “I’d be hard-pressed to imagine anything more repugnant to me than getting involved in a campaign for or against a local cityhood movement, but I’ve been educating myself about that possibility for several reasons including: current state senate hearings about a possible city of DeKalb, rumors that a new city may be interested in annexing nearby commercial properties in unincorporated DeKalb, and county commissioners from other districts overriding local commissioners on issues of local import.”
Commissioner Jeff Rader and former commissioner Judy Yates also attended the meeting.
Last week’s meeting covered city services and revenue sources, the legislative process, the need for commercial and industrial areas in a new city, Dunwoody’s experience and a proposed city of DeKalb that would take in all unincorporated areas.
Community activist Rhea Johnson offered his own map for a city of North DeKalb that would have an estimated population of 130,000. He proposed city taxes that would include 5 mills and a commuter tax of one percent of W-2 income up to $100,000. The tax digest on Johnson’s map had 31,130 parcels valued at $10.2 billion, including 1485 commercial parcels valued at $2. 46 billion.
Another meeting to discuss the pros and cons of creating a city might be held on November 29, Levitas said.
The next meeting of the Senate Study Committee on the incorporation of a city of DeKalb is scheduled for that same day, Nov. 29, from 10 a.m. to noon in Room 450 at the State Capitol. It will feature a presentation from the Carl Vinson Institute.
Levitas said he would oppose a city of DeKalb, which is a “thinly veiled attempt” to prevent other cities from forming.
More information about the Nov. 12 meeting can be found at northdekalbcity.blogspot. com.