The Northcrest Civic Association (NCA) became aware on September 24th, through social media, of a proposal by Doraville City Councilmember Robert Patrick to direct staff to study the feasibility of annexing a new area east of I-85 into the City. This proposal was brought up in the City Council Work Session Meeting on Monday, September 23rd. I drafted a letter from the NCA Board and had all Board members review it before sending it to Mayor Donna Pittman and all five Councilmembers on Sunday, September 29th. The letter outlined our surprise that this was brought up with no prior communication with the neighborhoods involved and our concern that our neighborhood was being dissected with a portion in this proposed annexation area and a portion left in unincorporated DeKalb. The letter also requested a face-to-face meeting with the Mayor and Councilman Patrick to further discuss the issue.
I met with Mayor Pittman and City Manager Regina Williams-Gates on Thursday, October 10th. In this meeting, Mayor Pittman agreed that we should not have learned about this on social media and apologized for the way this was handled. She said that she actually discouraged Councilmember Patrick from placing this on the agenda. When asked about the boundaries and why our neighborhood was being split up, she also expressed concern that this should not happen. She stated that she was not aware of the boundaries of our neighborhood and that some of it was left out. She referred me to Councilmember Patrick for questions regarding the map but stressed that she would not support splitting up a neighborhood as a part of annexation. You can view the map of the proposed annexation area by going to the Doraville website and looking at the agenda materials for the September 23rd Work Session Meeting. Doraville currently has three pockets of unincorporated DeKalb properties within their boundaries that cause logistical problems for them and diminish the sense of community in the areas so they totally understand the issue. Unfortunately, the Mayor wasn’t able to provide much background on the issue and referred me back to Councilmember Patrick. I informed her that I had emailed him several times and was having a hard time getting a meeting with him. She assured me that she would speak with him and encourage him to schedule a meeting with me soon.
I was finally able to meet with Councilmember Patrick on Saturday, October 12th. He was not apologetic about not reaching out to the impacted neighborhoods first. His stance is that the City first needs to determine the feasibility and then the Doraville citizens need to weigh in on their interest in annexing this area before reaching out to us to gauge our interest. I told him that I didn’t agree with this strategy and that at the least it could be done simultaneously. He did not agree with this suggestion. When pressed about why he would move forward with this without knowing whether the residents of the areas are interested, he stated that he had seen “some chatter” about city-hood on Nextdoor and some folks from this area saying they wouldn’t mind being in Doraville. I explained to him that we have some folks in our neighborhood interested in Vista Grove, some interested in Tucker, some interested in Doraville, some interested in staying unincorporated DeKalb, and some that just don’t care but that I don’t think there is a majority in any of those camps right now. He was surprised to hear that the neighborhood was not overwhelmingly in support of Vista Grove. I explained to him that the one topic that I hear the most about when discussing city-hood with folks is the need for a police department. Since Tucker contracts with the County and it is unclear whether Vista Grove will be able to have their own force either, Doraville would have a definite edge there.
When asked about the boundaries and why he divided our neighborhood, he also admitted to not knowing what comprised our neighborhood. He stated that he basically tried to follow the zip code boundaries because people that live in 30340 already consider themselves a part of Doraville. I told him that was not true at all and that the postal zones have nothing to do with a sense of community or belonging to that City. He stated that he hears from people all of the time that think that the postal zones and the City limits are the same. I expressed that I felt that was a small sector of the population and not a valid reason to use those boundaries. I offered to send him the listing of streets and homes that make up our community and that we would want to remain intact. He was receptive to that suggestion and is amenable to changing the proposed boundaries.
When asked about the timeline for this, the Mayor stated that it would take a long time to sort this all out and that it probably wouldn’t reach the stage to go to the voters for approval for several years. However, Councilmember Patrick stated that this could happen very quickly and would need to be ready to add to the discussions in January when the General Assembly looks at the proposal for Vista Grove since this will remove a large section of the map for that proposed City.
I also asked Councilmember Patrick about how this would impact the population of the City and the staffing for services provided. He stated that Doraville is on the low end of the pay scale compared to surrounding cities and has a hard time competing for staff. He further stated that the proposed area would bring an influx of property taxes that would help to improve this situation. I pointed out that the majority of the property in the proposed area is residential, not commercial or industrial, which traditionally involves a higher use of services and a lower revenue base. He countered that since our residential property values are so much higher than the ones in the existing City, it would actually be a boost for the City. So, in other words he seems to want our higher valued homes to help supplement the Doraville budget to be able to afford better staff for the City. When asked about how the proposed annexation properties would be incorporated into the existing three district map of Doraville, he stated that this would all be looked at in the feasibility study and that he had no idea what the recommendation would be.
According to Councilmember Patrick, this idea has been discussed amongst the City Council for a coupe of years, but I did not get that sense from the Mayor at all. The Mayor also stated that as far as she knows, Councilmember Koontz is the only other person on the Council that currently supports this proposal. So, for now I recommend that we just wait to see how this develops and keep our eyes and ears open. If you, as a neighborhood resident, feel strongly about this either way or have questions or concerns, I would highly encourage you to contact Mayor Pittman or Councilmember Patrick. I think that they are both open to hearing from us and genuinely want to know your position on the matter.
– Chris Hester, NCA President