The boundaries of the study area for a proposed city of Brookhaven are drawing criticism, both because of areas they include and areas they exclude.
About 100 residents of neighborhoods just outside the boundary of the area gathered for a public meeting Aug. 16 and decided to ask to meet with leaders of Citizens for North DeKalb, the group sponsoring the study, to discuss whether their communities should be included in the proposed city’s limits.
Julia Sellers, a resident of the Clairmont Terrace subdivision, said her neighborhood and others in the area near St. Pius X Catholic High School could become an island of unincorporated DeKalb County surrounded by the cities of Chamblee and Brookhaven if the current study area became a new city.
“We’re worried about being cut off from the rest of DeKalb County,” Sellers said.
Linley Jones, a member of the board of Citizens for North DeKalb and co-chair of communications for the group, said representatives of the non-profit group were not trying to exclude any neighborhoods when they drew the boundaries to be studied.
“It was certainly not any intended slight of particular neighborhoods,” she said. “The study area had to be defined somehow. When the lines were drawn, there were people who were going to be included and people who were going to be excluded.”
Also, she said, the boundaries proposed for the study area were simply that – an area for study, not the proposed final boundaries of a city, if one is created.
The Citizens for North DeKalb is financing a study by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia of the feasibility of creating a new city of Brookhaven in the area. Jones said the study should be complete in October. The non-profit has raised about $17,000, board member Tim Nama told members of the Ashford Park Civic Association at their Aug. 18 meeting. Linley said the group hopes to raise $50,000.
Boundaries for a city of Brookhaven were initially described in legislation introduced by Reps. Mike Jacobs of north DeKalb and Tom Taylor of Dunwoody during the 2010 session of the General Assembly. The two have said they introduced legislation creating the city to start a discussion about whether the city should be created and, if so, where.
Initially, the proposed city is generally bounded by Chamblee, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Atlanta and I-85. When creating the study area, the Citizens for North DeKalb added areas of commercial property, including the Century Center office complex near I-85 and an area south of Chamblee that includes a portion of the DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, according to their map.
The study area map also raised questions for Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson.
“I have some of the same questions that a lot of others have: Why were some areas included and others excluded?” Clarkson said. “I was surprised at the new map. It’s not the map they originally put out.”
Clarkson said that while he favored the idea of city governments being closer to neighborhoods they represent, he wanted to make sure the boundaries made sense. “I’m all in favor of the creation of a city of Brookhaven, but I want to make sure it doesn’t negatively impact the [other] DeKalb cities,” he said.
Clarkson said he already had met with members of the Citizens for North DeKalb to discuss the boundaries.
Linley said members of the group would also be willing to meet with representatives of neighborhoods that feel excluded. “I think a meeting sounds like a fine idea,” she said. “We certainly are open to it. The reason for this study is to have a dialogue, to have a dialogue about what these communities are interested in doing. … Nothing’s written in stone.”
Lawmakers and members of the citizens group say that once the Vinson Institute’s study is completed, residents can consider whether it makes sense to try to create a new city in the area. Eventually, creating a city would require legislative approval and approval in a vote of residents of the area.
Residents attending the Aug. 16 meeting, held at St. Pius X and hosted by the Dresden East Civic Association, said they were concerned that the city of Brookhaven would be created without them, but would include nearby commercial areas.
“I really think that if this map [of the proposed city boundaries] goes through, it’s unfair to these neighborhoods,” said Rep. Elena Parent of north DeKalb, who represents the area where the meeting was held and who led the discussion at the Aug. 16 meeting.
Without the commercial areas, residents said, they felt it would be harder for their neighborhoods to seek annexation into Brookhaven or Chamblee in the future.
“They need to either not take the commercial areas or they ought to include us,” resident Jordan Fox said. “If they don’t do that, then I think it’s just a selfish act.”