CHCA: discussion on Emory Annexation

Emory Annexation FAQ

Dekalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader held a meeting Aug. 22 to discuss Emory University’s announcement that it would seek annexation into Atlanta. Clairmont Heights Civic Association President Peter Rumsey attended for the neighborhood.

Jeff Rader led the discussion, with input from Dekalb County School Board member Marshall Orson. Other public officials attending included state Sen. Elena Parent, state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan, and Dekalb County Commissioner Kathie Gannon. Also in the audience were about 40 people from surrounding neighborhood associations. No one from Emory spoke at the meeting.

A map showing Emory University’s land is available here.

Radar also distributed a handout about annexation methods.

Here is a summary of the discussion:

How will Emory be annexed into Atlanta?

Rader said that Emory will likely petition using the 100% method of annexation, which would not require voter approval. For this method, Emory needs 50 feet of land contiguous with Atlanta’s border. Radar believes this border is around the Sage Hills apartment complex on Briarcliff.

What do county officials see as the biggest issues about the annexation?

Rader cited zoning and land use as one of the biggest issues. He said it’s an open question how well Atlanta will represent the interests of the surrounding neighborhoods. He is also concerned about the fire station on Clifton and if services to Dekalb residents will be affected.

What is included in Emory’s map?

Rader showed a map that included all Emory property. Emory has said the map will not include Druid Hills High School. Although the CDC campus is within Emory’s borders, it’s exempt because it’s federal property. It’s not clear whether private homes, the Emory Point commercial area, or the Dekalb County fire station on Clifton will be included.

What is Emory’s timeline and what is driving it?

No one could say for certain, but audience members said:

  • Emory wants it done by year’s end

  • Emory is motivated by its interest in light rail. Atlanta has a half-penny sales tax on the ballot in November that is designated to expand MARTA. If Emory joins Atlanta, it could be involved in the conversation about how to use those funds.

  • The annexation is likely to move quickly

In a statement, the university said it was motivated by wanting an Atlanta address.

What will be the impact on schools?

Emory claims the move will not have an impact on schools, but Orson said he is not convinced that’s true. He sees a limited impact on tax dollars from the loss of some commercial area (if included in the map). He said there might be a secondary cascading effect where streets and neighborhoods also seek annexation. Orson said the state Legislature should help create something to ensure continuity of schools in DeKalb County by creating separation between Municipal Governance and School Governance. Rep. Oliver seconded this – saying it was very possible.  

What about surrounding neighborhood? Radar said surrounding neighborhoods have the same option to approach Atlanta as Emory does.   

What is the impact on services?

Radar said he is very concerned about the fire station on Clifton. It’s unclear yet what the impact would be.

What are the revenue implications?

Orson said there could be some minimal loss of commercial tax revenue and the loss of sales tax collected in the Emory area.   

What does Dekalb County have planned in terms of mass transit?  The county doesn’t have a plan.  One audience member was pointedly frustrated and said that this lack of strategy is what pushes people to get out of unincorporated DeKalb.

What are other neighborhood associations saying?

Anne Wallace of the Druid Hills Civic Association pointed out that the the Emory annexation would remove the option for Decatur to annex  commercial property along Clairmont Rd. down to the Emory Clairmont Campus. That “finger” has been on some Decatur annexation maps in the past. North Decatur Road would be the only access for Druid Hills to the rest of unincorporated DeKalb, and the law doesn’t allow for islands. Her major concern is that the annexation puts the Druid Hills neighborhood in a challenging position with their contiguity to the rest of unincorporated DeKalb.

Rader asked for input on what DeKalb County should do to preserve its interests.  He said there are narrow options for a county to challenge annexation but it was not clear if that was what people wanted. He did not elaborate on those options or discuss next steps.

Rader email: rader@dekalbcountyga.gov

News coverage:

Atlanta Loop

AJC

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