A DeKalb judge has ruled that Brookhaven may not annex Century Center unless a Nov. 5 referendum to annex the property into Chamblee fails.
Citing Georgia law in an Oct. 28 order, DeKalb Superior Court Judge Tangela Barrie ruled that Local Act 205, the General Assembly’s legislation creating the Chamblee annexation referendum, trumps Brookhaven’s Oct. 8 vote to annex the Century Center office park.
“By proceeding to annex using an alternative method, Brookhaven’s actions are in fact impairing the General Assembly’s authority to annex via local act because Brookhaven’s actions would essentially usurp the intent of the referendum,” Barrie wrote in the order.
According to the Georgia Code section Barrie sites, “Except as otherwise expressly provided in this chapter, no provision of this chapter relating to annexation or deannexation by any such alternate method is intended to or shall be construed to in any way restrict, limit, or otherwise impair the authority of the General Assembly to annex or deannex by local act.”
Brookhaven officials appealed the judge’s decision to the Georgia Supreme Court on Oct. 29
In a news release, city officials also encouraged more county residents to petition to join Brookhaven. Mayor J. Max Davis invited residents of DeKalb County’s north-central corridor to apply to be annexed into the city.
“We are confident that the Supreme Court will see the merits of Brookhaven’s claims and respect the property owners’ wishes to be included in Brookhaven’s boundaries,” Davis said. “We as a city have a strong desire to expand our borders and municipalize DeKalb’s north-central corridor. We encourage any property owner – residential or commercial – to petition to be part of our city and enjoy the benefits of living in Brookhaven.”
On Nov. 5, voters will decide on whether Chamblee should annex a large tract of land to its southern border, including homes from the Dresden East neighborhoods and the Century Center office park.
The cities of Brookhaven and Chamblee have been in and out of court arguing over the right to annex Century Center, a tax-rich commercial property located near I-85 and Clairmont Road.
On Aug. 16, Barrie issued an injunction temporarily blocking Brookhaven from annexing the property until after the Oct. 24 hearing. On Sept. 17, Brookhaven filed an emergency motion asking the Supreme Court to lift the injunction.
In the motion, Brookhaven claimed the DeKalb judge overstepped her authority because she “enjoined a state legislative function, which is entirely inappropriate and outside the jurisdiction of the Superior Court.”
The high court ruled Oct. 3 that Brookhaven had the right to vote to annex the Century Center office complex. However, the court’s ruling only applied to the city’s ability to vote, leaving the dispute over the annexation open.
On Oct. 24, Chamblee and Brookhaven’s high-profile lawyers argued their cases during a three-hour hearing.
Bob Wilson, a former DeKalb County district attorney, said that the General Assembly had the ultimate authority on annexation. “Until 1954, there was absolutely no way anyone other than the General Assembly could do annexation,” Wilson said.
Then, annexation was delegated to cities through alternative methods, however Wilson said, “the paramount authority of annexation rests with the General Assembly.”
“Indisputably, the reason we are here is what Brookhaven is doing is in conflict with Local Act 205,” Wilson said.
Former Gov. Roy Barnes, representing Brookhaven, argued that the local act is not yet effective because it hasn’t been approved by voters.
Barnes said there is no language in the General Assembly’s local act that prevents other methods of annexation from taking place. “There is legal delegated authority that has already been exercised,” Barnes said. “Can the General Assembly, without saying so, prevent a totally legal action of delegated authority from the Constitution?”