The city of Brookhaven added approximately 2,000 residents to its population Dec. 10 with the annexation of the LaVista Park neighborhood south of I-85 and Executive Park.
The City Council voted unanimously to annex the area that includes 601 single-family residences, two apartment complexes and eight commercial parcels across some 330 acres. The annexation went into effect immediately and city staff lit up “Welcome to Brookhaven” traffic message board signs at intersections into the neighborhood immediately following the vote.
“I’m really excited for your energy to come into Brookhaven,” said Mayor John Ernst. “You get what you put into the city, so be active in the community.” Ernst also praised the city for being willing to annex a largely residential area into the city rather than only seeking the tax base of commercial areas.
The LaVista Park Civic Association requested annexation into Brookhaven using what is called the “60% method” — the requirement that at least 60% of property owners and 60% of voters in the area sign a petition agreeing to become part of the city so no referendum is necessary. According to its application to the city, the civic association got 71% of the property owners to sign the petition and 65% of all voters.
District 4 Councilmember Joe Gebbia, whose district includes the newly annexed area, said he believes LaVista Park is the state’s largest annexation into a city using the 60% method that bypasses holding a referendum. He praised the LaVista Park Civic Association for the work done to make the annexation a reality.
“This has been a year in the making … and has taken a lot of effort,” he said. “This was a team effort.”
Michael Lappin of the civic association led the annexation effort and held numerous petition drives this year to get the required number of signatures. In September he became ill and was not able to work as much on finalizing the annexation request to the city. LaVista Park Civic Association President Larry Hoskins was able to complete the process.
“In early September I received a significant cancer diagnosis and wasn’t sure I would make it to see this day,” Lappin told the City Council.
The annexation kept him motivated, he said, as did the work of Hoskins. He said he looked forward to waking up on Dec. 11 as a resident of the city and that “I look forward to being an involved Brookhaven resident for years to come.”
In a service delivery report about the LaVista Park annexation, City Manager Christian Sigman said a new police patrol beat is needed for the area southeast of I-85 due to the increase in residences and businesses. The beat requires hiring four new police officers to provide 24-hour coverage. Cost for this is expected to cost $378,000 the first year and $328,000 in following years, he said in the report.
The Brookhaven Public Works Department’s street sweeper was set to work in the newly annexed area over the next two days. Eighteen potholes have already been identified to be fixed and are expected to be filled by the end of the week if good weather holds out, according to Public Works Director Hari Karakaran.
The city will begin a detailed infrastructure assessment of LaVista Park this week to determine what resources will be needed to repair roads, parks and stormwater facilities, Sigman added.
Money to make the repairs will be come from a “special tax district” of the newly annexed area where property owners will continue to pay their higher DeKalb County taxes until all infrastructure improvements are paid off.
The city adopted the new special tax district policy for annexed areas earlier this year. City leaders say the new policy ensures tax dollars from existing property owners aren’t used to fix what the county failed to do.
Hoskins and Lappin had previously said the LaVista Park push to be annexed into Brookhaven was to ensure their voices were heard on the massive developments at the I-85 and North Druid Hills interchange. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is building out an approximate 70-acre medical campus at the interchange and Emory University has begun its plans to redevelop some 60 acres of Executive Park.
This story has been updated.