By Rick Callihan
Cities often have distinct borders such as a river, a railroad line, or perhaps a mountain. Here in Dunwoody we have I-285 as our southern boundary line, and we should keep it that way.
Recently, there was a bit of a stir regarding a Georgia House bill (HB 428) that would, if passed, allow Dunwoody to expand inside ‘285’ toward the Nancy Creek / Brookhaven area.
Prior to becoming a city officially, some people in what is now Dunwoody wanted the city to be formed to include some land inside the Perimeter. Perimeter Summit, part of the official PCIDs, was of course the big prize. Including a commercial complex like Perimeter Summit makes sense to a city government because it generates tax revenue but does not require a lot of services.
However, there was very little support from the West Nancy Creek or Murphey Candler areas to join Dunwoody a few years ago. People inside ‘285’ were concerned about the possibility of increased taxes and did not possess the same strong desire to be part of a city. Ironically, their taxes are now higher than what we pay as residents of Dunwoody.
So why an increased interest in joining Dunwoody now? I’d say it’s more of an increased interest to escape unincorporated DeKalb County than it is a push to live in the Smart City.
This area of DeKalb to our city’s south is sort of an island. They have the cities of Dunwoody to the north, Chamblee and Doraville to the east, and Sandy Springs to the west.
What these four cities have that this part of unincorporated DeKalb does not is local representation and fast-responding police departments. So what looked like a bad idea a few years ago suddenly makes sense for this area. Recently the unincorporated residents of DeKalb have seen some taxes increase significantly with a decrease in services from DeKalb.
The area in question does not have the tax base to be its own city without paying even higher taxes than today, even if it were to stretch from ‘285’ to Peachtree Road in Brookhaven. I’m sure someone will try to make a case for a new DeKalb city, but residents would have to pay more taxes to have the same services as a Chamblee or Decatur.
That will be a tough sell in today’s economy. Chamblee nearly doubled in size with its recent annexation so its appetite for growth is suppressed, and Norcross is a bit too far east.
Dunwoody is but a couple of years along in cityhood. It’s way too early for us to expand our borders. There are lots of needs to be addressed here including sidewalks, road resurfacing, parks, and at least a dozen other things.
The proposed area of annexation probably has the same needs as do we in Dunwoody. Adding on more residents with needs for expensive infrastructure repairs just doesn’t make sense for us now. With years of backlogs in Dunwoody for road resurfacing, adding miles of new roadways to our inventory would compound the problem.
Although the proposed legislation was a bit of a surprise to our City Council and staff, no doubt there are those amongst us with a desire to expand the Dunwoody Kingdom. Adding several thousand people would bump up our ranking among Georgia cities, perhaps putting us in the Top Ten for population, but would also require additional expenses.
The first thing we’d need would be additional police officers. Of course, we’d need to maintain and operate Murphey Candler Park (I suspect a large amount of people using this park are Dunwoody residents anyway) and possibly Blackburn Park. With Dunwoody just now getting around to an overhaul of our current parks, adding two large parks would require an expansion of our parks department as well.
Perhaps we should be flattered that we have a group of Georgians wanting to join us, but this one time City Council needs to say thanks, but no thanks for now.
View Rick Callihan’s Dunwoody Talk blog at www.dunwoodytalk.blogspot.com.