The DeKalb County Commission has voted to file a formal objection to Emory University’s efforts to annex into the city of Atlanta.
The commission voted to approve the objection at a special called meeting on Aug. 1.
DeKalb County provided a copy of the resolution and the accompanying letter:
The resolution cites a state law that allows counties to object to annexations under certain circumstances.
“This item will protect the health, safety and welfare interests of the County and its taxpayers,” a memo attached to the resolution says.
The city of Atlanta could approve the annexation as early as Sept. 5. The county is asking the city to delay that vote.
Melissa Mullinax, senior adviser to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, said, “We are awaiting the letter from the County, and look forward to addressing any meaningful concerns our colleagues in DeKalb County may have. We are confident that the City can serve the needs of the institutions that have requested annexation and we look forward to continuing the public discussion with members of the impacted communities and the Atlanta City Council.”
A spokesperson for Emory University said, “We are aware of the recent DeKalb County resolution and respect the process that is in place for the annexation application.”
The county has asked the city for a seat at the table to negotiate the annexation, but the city hasn’t been receptive Commissioner Jeff Rader says. DeKalb County had already signaled its intention to slow walk the annexation. County CEO Michael Thurmond on July 10 sent a letter to the city of Atlanta saying the county has ownership of infrastructure in the area around Emory University that could soon be annexed into the city.
The letter attached to the resolution passed on Aug. 1 says, “[State law] authorizes a county governing authority to object to a proposed annexation due to a material increase in burden upon the county directly related to any one or more of the following: (1) the proposed change in zoning or land use, (2) proposed increase in density, and (3) resulting infrastructure demands.”
“Atlanta’s proposed annexation of the Emory Parcels currently located in unincorporated DeKalb would cause a direct and material impact in all three regards, namely resulting in zoning and land use changes that allow different and more intense uses, increased density, and ensuing burdens on DeKalb’s infrastructure,” the letter says. “Further, the proposed annexation is incompatible with the current land use designations of the affected properties under DeKalb’s Comprehensive Plan, is incompatible with the current zoning classifications and associated land uses authorized under DeKalb’s Zoning Ordinance and is incompatible with the current land development regulations administered by the County.”
The letter says that the annexation petitions are invalid because the city and the properties under discussion don’t share enough of a border:
In addition to the university, the 744.7 acre annexation proposal also includes petitions from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia Power, Villa International, Synod of South Atlantic & Presbyterian Church (USA) Inc. and the Centers for Disease Control.
Emory’s pursuit of annexation is widely viewed as an effort to move forward with the Clifton Corridor Light Rail Project that would link MARTA’s Lindbergh and Avondale Stations and would service the Emory area. In November, Atlanta voters overwhelmingly approved a sales tax to expand MARTA.
In a statement CEO Thurmond said the county’s move “should not be seen as opposition to the proposed Emory annexation.”
“We believe the annexation will be a positive step if the process includes open, transparent negotiations with all parties involved including DeKalb County Government, City of Atlanta, Emory University, MARTA, DeKalb County School District and Atlanta Public Schools,” Thurmond said. “Our objections are designed to ensure that all the issues associated with the proposed annexation are thoroughly vetted and that citizens have the ability to be informed regarding potential impact on their neighborhoods, communities, and the county as a whole.”
A spokesperson for the county said the goal of challenging the annexation is to force the two sides of the dispute into arbitration. The arbitration panel would have five members.
Under state law regarding annexation challenges:
– The Department of Community Affairs shall develop three pools of arbitrators, one pool which consists of persons who are currently or within the previous six years have been municipal elected officials, one pool which consists of persons who are currently or within the previous six years have been county elected officials, and one pool which consists of persons with a master’s degree or higher in public administration or planning and who are currently employed by an institution of higher learning in this state, other than the Carl Vinson Institute of The pool shall be sufficiently large to ensure as nearly as practicable that no person shall be required to serve on more than two panels in any one calendar year and serve on no more than one panel in any given county in any one calendar year. The department is authorized to coordinate with the Georgia Municipal Association, the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, the Council of Local Governments, and similar organizations in developing and maintaining such pools.
– Upon receiving notice of a disputed annexation, the department shall choose at random four names from the pool of municipal officials, four names from the pool of county officials, and three names from the pool of academics; provided, however, that none of such selections shall include a person who is a resident of the county which has interposed the objection or any municipal corporation located wholly or partially in such The municipal corporation shall be permitted to strike or excuse two of the names chosen from the county officials pool; the county shall be permitted to strike or excuse two of the names chosen from the municipal officials pool; and the county and municipal corporation shall each be permitted to strike or excuse one of the names chosen from the academic pool.
Here is the state code, provided by the county:
Here is Thurmond’s full statement:
“On behalf of the DeKalb County Government and the Board of Commissioners, we look forward to engaging in cooperative discussions with all interested parties in hopes of reaching a successful resolution to the proposed annexation of Emory and surrounding properties into the City of Atlanta.
“Mass transit is a way to enhance the quality of life for all citizens of DeKalb. We believe that the construction of both the Clifton corridor and the I-20 rail extension are essential to promoting the continued economic growth and prosperity of DeKalb County.
“The objections submitted by the County should not be seen as opposition to the proposed Emory annexation. We believe the annexation will be a positive step if the process includes open, transparent negotiations with all parties involved including DeKalb County Government, City of Atlanta, Emory University, MARTA, DeKalb County School District and Atlanta Public Schools.
“Our objections are designed to ensure that all the issues associated with the proposed annexation are thoroughly vetted and that citizens have the ability to be informed regarding potential impact on their neighborhoods, communities, and the county as a whole. It is also imperative the appropriate intergovernmental agreements are entered into with the City prior to the annexation that ensures the appropriate service delivery of police, fire, 911 and water and sewer to both DeKalb County and City of Atlanta residents so that there are no gaps in serving citizens of both jurisdictions.
“We look forward to a meaningful discussion in the days to come.”
CEO, DeKalb County