The sweet smell of baking bread wafts from EPI Breads and greets visitors to the Executive Parkview Townhomes.

The bakery on Tullie Circle is just north of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta office park in Brookhaven’s city limits. The town homes, surrounded by trees on Woodcliff Drive and within yards of CHOA, are in unincorporated DeKalb County.

Rick Bennett sits on a wall behind his Executive Parkview townhome. The trees behind him are within Brookhaven city limits. (Photo Dyana Bagby)

Residents are hoping Brookhaven City Council will close the gap by approving a requested annexation.

“Nobody knows we’re back here,” said Rick Bennett, HOA president for Executive Park Townhomes. “We’re a secret.”

Seeking to be annexed into Brookhaven along with Executive Park Townhomes are the Executive Park Apartments on Briarcliff Road, the Executive Park Condominiums on Executive Park Lane and two single-family homes at 1705 and 1721 Woodcliff Drive N.E. The two houses have been purchased by a developer seeking to have the property redeveloped into nine townhomes. A recent request to the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners to rezone the property for multi-use homes was deferred. The total annexation area is approximately 19 acres and includes nearly 200 people.

“This is completely resident-led, all done by volunteers,” Bennett said of the annexation request.

Talk among residents living in the idyllic area amidst the hustle and bustle of Executive Park and Brighten Park began in earnest after the City Council annexed Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Executive Park in late 2014.

With their property now bordering CHOA, and therefore the city, Bennett said volunteers in the multi-family complexes began gathering the required 60 percent support from their neighbors. Then the LaVista Hills cityhood movement began in early 2015 and the residential properties were drawn into the proposed city. Efforts to be annexed into Brookhaven were postponed.

“Those of us living here were overwhelmingly opposed to being part of LaVista Hills,” Bennett said.

When the LaVista Hills city vote failed in a squeaker of a vote last November, Bennett and his neighbors breathed a sigh of relief. But they still worried about their future.

Lynette Mathews, who also lives in Executive Park Townhomes, said it was time for residents to take a proactive approach to determining where they wanted to belong.

“Even though Brookhaven was not making a play for us, [the question was] where did we want to be?” she said. “Do we want to be masters of our destiny, or be a volleyball batted around?”

Efforts picked back up to seek Brookhaven annexation in December 2015 and six months of “intensive due diligence” began, Bennett said.

Spreadsheets were created to show residents what their property taxes would be if annexed by Brookhaven and showed an approximate $100 a year increase. “Everyone was saying it was worth it,” he said. “We tried to look at every scenario and talked to other Brookhaven residents. We don’t want to be a burden on the city. We want to have a positive impact.”

The annexation request was formally filed with the city last month and the Planning Commission is slated to consider the rezoning of the property at its Dec. 7 meeting. The City Council will consider the annexation at its Dec. 13 meeting.

At Mayor John Ernst’s Nov. 17 town hall meeting, City Manager Christian Sigman explained the city is conducting its own studies of what the annexation may cost the city for services such as police protection and Public Works coverage. Because the area is so small and in good shape, the financial impact appears negligible, Sigman said.

Bennett said the residential areas are self-sustaining and HOA fees cover water and sewer repairs, for example. Only a small stretch of Woodcliff Road would become the city’s responsibility, he said.

Bennett said he has watched the city of Brookhaven closely since it was created in 2012 and said he has been most impressed by how the city officials respond to residents. He and his neighbors want to be able to have that kind of input as the area surrounding them continues to be developed.

Last year, City Council approved rezoning for a CHOA 340,000 square-foot, eight-story outpatient building at the busy I-85/North Druid Hills interchange.

A master plan is in the works for the hospital’s 30 acres. Emory University this year purchased 60 acres of Executive Park and has plans for a mixed-use development in the area to include commercial and residential property.

“With all the development and rezoning going on, we want to part of that,” he said. “Brookhaven listens to its residents and that’s huge. We want a louder voice. We want to be part of the city’s future.”

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.