After a group of county residents decisively voted to bring their area into the city of Chamblee, Brookhaven City Council has decided to end its fight to annex the Century Center office complex.
At a Nov. 12 meeting, Brookhaven City Council approved a resolution to discontinue funding for an appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court. Also in its resolution, the City Council asked Chamblee to drop its lawsuit against Brookhaven over the Century Center property.
“After thoughtful deliberation on this important issue, we decided that Highwoods Properties can continue its own course as they see fit. However, we won’t be funding the current appeal,” Mayor J. Max Davis said. “We would like to congratulate the new citizens of Chamblee. We hope to see the entire northeast corridor of DeKalb municipalized because we believe it’s best for the region.”
For months, the cities of Brookhaven and Chamblee have been wrangling over who has the right to annex Century Center, a large commercial property near the intersection of Clairmont Road and I-85.
After Highwoods Properties, the owners of Century Center, applied for annexation into Brookhaven, Brookhaven City Council voted Oct. 8 to bring the property into the city. But Century Center was already drawn into the General Assembly’s local act establishing the Chamblee annexation referendum.
The two cities went to court, and DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Tangela Barrie ruled that Brookhaven could only annex the property if the Nov. 5 Chamblee referendum failed.
After the referendum was approved, state legislators put pressure on the Brookhaven City Council to give up the Century Center fight.
Reps. Mary Margaret Oliver and Scott Holcomb sent a letter to the City Council members. And Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven, said he called the mayor and council asking them to respect the outcome of the Chamblee referendum.
“We had a referendum on [Nov. 5] and the voters rendered a decisive verdict in favor of being annexed into Chamblee. As Brookhaven citizens who sought our own incorporation approximately a year and a half ago, I would hope that we would respect the decision of the citizens who have voted to annex into Chamblee,” Jacobs said. “Furthermore, it is critically important for the future of north DeKalb that these two cities — Chamblee and Brookhaven — be able to work together. Each day that passes with Brookhaven’s participation in this lawsuit, from here forward, only jeopardizes that very important working relationship.”
Jim Bacchetta, vice president of Highwoods Properties Atlanta Division, said Highwoods would have preferred to join the city of Brookhaven.
“Folks who voted certainly deserve the right to vote and determine their future and whether or not they want to be in Chamblee. As you know, we’re a corporate citizen, so we had no vote [Nov. 5]. But we cast our vote when we applied for annexation into Brookhaven and that’s what we wanted, obviously,” Bacchetta said.
In 2012, the Chamblee annexation referendum failed by a razor-thin margin. Acknowledging ballot issues, legislators gave residents a second chance and put the annexation measure back before voters in 2013, where it was approved by more than 60 percent.
Elmer Veith of Citizens for Chamblee, the group that advocated for the Chamblee annexation, said he thinks voters overwhelmingly approved the measure this time around because they recognized the impending changes in their region.
The portion of DeKalb County below the annexation area, just south of I-85, is in a state of political upheaval. Several groups are vying to create cities in the area.
“They realize another city is going to form on the other side of I-85,” Veith said. “They realized it was time to make a choice and have some control over how the area is going to move forward.”
Though the annexation referendum was driven by residents in the Dresden East area, Chamblee officials have championed the effort.
Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson said he thinks the approximately 11,000 new residents will strengthen the city of Chamblee.
“I think it’s great for the community,” Clarkson said. “I think I can speak for the entire council and say we’re excited to have the new area become part of the city of Chamblee.”