Chamblee says it needs Century Center’s tax base to support 11,000 newly-annexed residents. The center’s owner wants to be annexed into Brookhaven, so the area remains in legal limbo.

People living in the Dresden East area can now officially call themselves residents of Chamblee.

On Dec. 30, a voter-approved referendum took effect, bringing a large tract of unincorporated DeKalb County south of Chamblee into the city limits. However, the roughly 100-acre commercial area called Century Center will remain in the county until the Georgia Supreme Court rules on where it belongs.

Highwoods Properties, the owner of Century Center, filed an emergency motion asking the court to review its appeal before the Chamblee annexation took effect. The Georgia Court of Appeals denied Highwoods’ request for an expedited hearing, but granted its request to block Chamblee from annexing their property until the appeal is heard.

Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson said the city proceeded with the annexation, even though Century Center is still tied up in court. Chamblee officials have said they need the revenue from the tax-rich Century Center to support the additional 11,000 residents the city is serving with the annexation.

“It’s challenging for us because here we are allocating a lot of resources to annex an area without the commercial tax base needed to pay for those services,” Clarkson said. “It puts us in a bad place.”

The current litigation between Highwoods and Chamblee is the evolution of a bitter battle between Chamblee and Brookhaven over the right to annex the property.

After Highwoods Properties applied for annexation into Brookhaven, Brookhaven City Council voted Oct. 8 to bring Century Center 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.

Brookhaven City Council voted in November to discontinue funding toward the appeal filed in Supreme Court.

Chamblee City Council later passed its own resolution asking its counterparts in Brookhaven to rescind their annexation vote, to close the matter once and for all. Brookhaven City Council has not rescinded its vote.

Clarkson said though Brookhaven is no longer paying for any attorneys, he believes officials are still hopeful that Highwoods’ appeal is successful.

“They’re hoping that property comes into the city of Brookhaven. That was their intention all along. It’s still the attorney [Brookhaven] hired. It’s still the same legal team. I guess Highwoods is just paying for it now,” Clarkson said. “It’s disingenuous at best for Brookhaven to not be taking further action to respect what people in that area voted for. I think everybody sees through that ruse.”

But Brookhaven Mayor J. Max Davis said the city is no longer involved.

“The city of Brookhaven is following from the periphery. It’s a Highwoods property rights issue,” Davis said. “We already voted to annex them and that still stands… We’ll do whatever the courts say.”

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