A Tale of Three (Proposed) Cities

December 16, 2013 11:36 am

by Jon Richards · 23 comments

Three groups have proposed creating new cities in east DeKalb County covering a roughly triangular area with the Stone Mountain Freeway and North Druid Hills Road as the base, I-85 as the left leg, and the Gwinnett County border as the right leg. The proposed cities have different boundaries, as you can see on the map.

Click to enlarge this map.

Click to enlarge this map.

If you remember Venn Diagrams, you can see all three of the proposed new cities claim the area west of I-285 at LaVista Road as their own. This area, of course, contains Northlake Mall and its associated office space, and would provide much of the commercial tax base each city would need in order to be viable.

The first step in becoming a city is conducting a feasibility study. Lakeside backers released a its Feasability Study, conducted by the Carl Vinson Institute at UGA shortly before Thanksgiving, saying that the proposed 63,000 resident city would be financially sound and that no new property taxes would be needed to fund it.

The group proposing the city of Briarcliff announced this morning that they too have gotten their feasibility study back from the Vinson Institute, and are planning on a presser Tuesday the 17th at 2 PM to release it. They have also scheduled a public meeting to review the results on Thursday the 19th at 7 PM. The meeting will be held at Briarcliff United Methodist Church, 4105 Briarcliff Road NE. In their announcement, they claim the Vinson Institute found the Briarcliff plan was the most feasible of the three plans.

As for the proposed city of Tucker, a feasibility study was begun in August by the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, and is yet to be released, although backers claim it will be done in time for consideration by the legislature in 2014.

When the dust settles, will DeKalb end up with one, two, or three new cities? The answer to that question may depend on how that intersecting area along I-285 near Northlake Mall in the Venn diagram ends up being divided.

peachpundit (@peachpundit) December 16, 2013 at 11:36 am

New post: A Tale of Three (Proposed) Cities http://t.co/RPlBzH58CB #gapol

South Fulton Guy December 16, 2013 at 11:57 am

As most know municipal feasibility studies are funded by proponents of the new city. My observation has been that they always say the city is feasible, never raining on their client’s parade. Does anyone recall differently?

bgsmallz December 16, 2013 at 3:20 pm

#1- The Carl Vinson Institute isn’t just handing out feasibility studies for cash from a ‘client’. They do feasibility studies for entities all over the state. I would be careful implying that institution is some sort of hired gun.
#2- I don’t recall any new cities bankrupt either….Do you?

The reason they always say the city is feasible is because the county’s where these areas are located have made these tax payers into inequitable donors…they pay way more taxes than the services they receive. DeKalb and Fulton could get away with this when they had fairly competitive millage rates (and a legislature willing to keep restraints in place like the ‘three mile rule’)…but by raising millage rates AND not providing adequate services, they killed the geese that lay the golden eggs.

South Fulton Guy December 16, 2013 at 4:34 pm

bgsmallz, With all due respect…

1a) Yes the Carl Vincent Institute is paid for the studies that they conduct by the customer who engaged them. WIKI: [A customer (sometimes known as a client, buyer, or purchaser) is the recipient of a good, service, product, or idea, obtained from a seller, vendor, or supplier for a monetary or other valuable consideration.]

1b)Not sure how you define hired gun but in spite of their well deserved reputation and the number of studies the Institute has issued, they are hired which is a statement of fact – this does not inherently or necessarily impune their character.

2) Not sure why whether any new city going bankrupt has anything at all with my un-refuted point that feasibility studies including all those provided by the Carl Vincent Institute have always say the proposed cities are viable.

Since you choose to differ with my contention, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that I am wrong.

bgsmallz December 16, 2013 at 5:35 pm

With all due respect, your contention is pointless. It’s a red herring. It’s not that I differ with it….it’s that I would rather folks who are actually interested in learning to not be distracted by it. Fair enough?

The results of the study are relevant to the extent they are right or wrong. Is this area projected to be a viable city? The CVI studies have said yes…and it is a fact that these CVI studies have been accurate at predicting viability every time.

If the question is whether a player is a good hitter, you look at his hitting stats. You don’t say…’well, he’s hitting .450 with 47 homers and an OPS of .850…but who is writing his checks?’

Asking ‘well, but who is paying for the study’ is a pretty common red herring among ‘no city’/county apologists.

Look at one of these studies…they are overly simple. There isn’t much there to manipulate for a ‘favorable’ outcome other than the millage rate. Revenues, population…those are not being manipulated. What would kill viability? Low millage rates. But, as you saw with DeKalb’s budget today, getting these counties to actually understand that is seemingly pointless.

South Fulton Guy December 16, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Lithia Springs is an unincorporated area, formerly incorporated as a city, located in northeastern Douglas County, Georgia, United States.

atl_man December 16, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Since the 3 cities are contiguous (as a matter of fact Briarcliff pretty much includes ALL of Lakeside and Tucker includes about 1/3 of the proposed Lakeside) why not just combine them all into one big city?

Scott65 December 16, 2013 at 12:42 pm

As someone directly affected…Briarcliff is by far the best solution and the one most residents prefer. Lakeside makes no sense and cherry picks the more desirable areas leaving the rest to fend for themselves. Tucker is more a reaction to Lakeside than an organic movement in and of itself

atl_man December 16, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Ya but whether Biarcliff or Lakeside is formed folks will still want Tucker. So that is why I say just combine the 3. Or really just combine Briarcliff and Tucker, as Lakeside contains nothing that isn’t contained within one or the other.

Scott65 December 16, 2013 at 2:42 pm

I still think Lakeside’s borders make no sense. As far as being able to get up and running having all 3 together doesn’t make much sense as the geographic area is pretty large and you have to take into account the Dekalb Co isnt going to be the most willing partner to whatever shakes out

bgsmallz December 16, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Combining the three as one city doesn’t make sense…however, what they should have done IMO [and why wouldn’t they listen to the ramblings of an anonymous commenter? http://www.peachpundit.com/2013/02/08/re-dekalb-city-of-lakeside/…is done one study on the whole area and then divided it up after the study was done. The Lakeside leadership has been pretty presumptuous from the start leaving out folks in Tucker and Druid Hills and for the reasons I pointed out back in Feb., it will likely be their undoing.

The state legislature is going to have its hands full. What makes the most sense to me is having a referendum on Tucker and Briarcliff…Lakeside is clearly the ugly duckling…but Lakeside seems to have the political backing because of who is behind it. It’s going to be a tough matchup of stated principles vs. politics. Glad that’s on someone else!

gcp December 16, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Agree Briarcliff makes most sense since it uses natural boundaries of 85,285, cities of Avondale, Atl, Decatur and the old railroad. Lakeside is goofy because it goes over 285 and also leaves a small unincorporated area between its boundaries and the three cities. Tucker needs to stay on its side of 285 and leave Northlake to city of Briarcliff and use 78 as its southern border. For those involved, leave the politics out and use the “natural boundaries” because it will be easier to provide services.

George Chidi December 16, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Missing from this map is a sense of the long-term plans of Clarkston, Avondale Estates and Stone Mountain.

An enlarged Clarkston clips the bottom part of the three-city overlap there … so you’re actually looking at four competing claims. Avondale Estates plans to expand northward a bit as well. And Stone Mountain has a proposed map that takes in all of Smoke Rise, a swath of the eastern blue corner of a proposed Tucker there. (I think Tucker’s proposed map is a bit more conservative than this one depicts.)

Jon Richards December 16, 2013 at 8:13 pm

When I looked at the Tucker proposal, it seems to match that map in my post. In fact, the map I posted is on the Tucker2014 website as well.

Tom Taylor December 16, 2013 at 6:42 pm

To the author of the post and some, but not all of the folks commenting. It is the Carl Vinson Institute, not Vincent. Named after a very esteemed Georgia legislator, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson is also named after him.

This is a state institution that has provided very accurate study information on feasibility, revenue/expense data, and other information for proposed incorporation efforts. I was heavily involved in the Dunwoody and Brookhaven efforts, but if you look back to the studies done for Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton, Dunwoody and Brookhaven you will find well-researched and extremely accurate information that is back up now by 5+ years of actual operational data that confirm the findings. All of those cities are and always have run budget surpluses every year.

griftdrift December 16, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Aren’t you involved in Lakeside too? Or is that just an advisory thing?

Tom Taylor December 17, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Been down that path with Dunwoody and Brookhaven, I just have been through this. Have also talked with Jason Lary and the Stonecrest effort. I am a believer in how well local government works and will be generally supportive of anyone seriously looking at it.

I just have lived it from concept, legislation, advocacy, startup (as a City Councilman in Dunwoody), and operation. Literally have spent the past 8 years doing this and have mentored to folks in both Brookhaven and the current Lakeside effort, as well as Stonecrest.

For the record, none of the other proposed cities have asked me.

Scott65 December 17, 2013 at 9:42 pm

I would argue that Brookhaven was the least viable of any city mentioned…especially when you cut off revenue streams you use in viability studies and rack up huge legal bills to back it up (PP doesnt just stand for Peach Pundit folks). Looks like COBI came up with the best numbers by 2 million while still including a whole bunch of unincorporated areas that Lakeside blew off (as mentioned above it will be their undoing) Druid Hills isnt a fan of Lakeside, but is warmer to COBI. Lakeside is already trying to politicize this discussion. Not wise when trying to shmooze. Also, COBI and Tucker have been in regular communication. Lakeside refuses to talk to anyone…also a pretty stupid move.

Tom Taylor December 17, 2013 at 10:40 pm

As a practical matter Scott65, this is ALL a political exercise. And in a General Assembly that is 65+% Republican, only one of the numerous DeKalb city bills has a Republican sponsor. Let that sink in for a minute.

Who is going to carry the other bills? The sponsors of all of the bills except Lakeside have opposed and VOTED against every city since Sandy Springs incorporated and even sued to un-incorporate those cities (without success) after they passed and were operating. Just a rhetorical question, how are you now for cities now, when you have been in vocal opposition to every other one prior. Where do you get the votes in both committee and on the House and Senate floors (if it gets there) when you are on record voting to oppose all cities since 2004?

bgsmallz December 18, 2013 at 9:12 am

@scott65

Don’t let facts get in the way of a good opinion. The Brookhaven CVI projected revenues of 25,083,475 at a millage rate of 3.35 with $24.9M in expenditures (which included funding 53 full time police officers).

The actual 2014 Brookhaven budget projects revenues of $26,343,000 with a millage rate of 2.85 (15% less than what was required in the CVI). This includes 59 sworn full time officers(an 11% increase over the CVI), and a budgeted general reserve of over $2 Million (which is 19x’s greater than the surplus projected by the CVI with a 3.35 millage rate) , and over $2 Million in capital improvements to Brookhaven’s parks, and $2.5M in sidewalk and paving expenditures.

This idea that the PP lawsuit is bankrupting Brookhaven is an untruth implied by the owners of the PP in their paid for advertisements. (Who says marketing doesn’t work?) The idea that Brookhaven ‘needs’ Century Center for revenue is another untruth spread by those that seemingly have an agenda that is ‘anti-Brookhaven’. There is no rational or factual basis in either. Repeating them without any sort of research…also a pretty stupid move.

Tom Taylor December 17, 2013 at 10:46 pm

I am generally supportive of any municipal incorporation effort and have said so on record. But at the end of the day this is a political exercise. And I do not really see any practical way for COBI or Tucker to succeed without a majority party sponsor. Not passing judgement, just political reality. All of the previous incorporation bills difficult even with Republican majorities in both chambers, think about a Democrat sponsor trying to move these. Difficult to say the least.

griftdrift December 18, 2013 at 8:01 am

Agreed.

Harry December 18, 2013 at 11:00 am

Maybe the Dem sponsors are just doing it for appearances?

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