By Gerhard Schneibel
A push to annex two sections of DeKalb County into the city of Chamblee could leave an unincorporated sliver of Brookhaven wedged between Chamblee on the east and Sandy Springs and North Buckhead on the west.
One area north of Peachtree Road, south of Harts Mill Road and west of Ashford-Dunwoody Road isn’t being considered for annexation. The Oglethorpe Estates neighborhood is in the area.
A parcel on the east side of Ashford-Dunwoody, which contains the Sexton Woods neighborhood, is being considered for annexation.
A second, larger parcel north of Chamblee, containing neighborhoods including Huntley Hills, also is being considered for annexation.
Chamblee’s bid to expand as early as 2010 after the incorporation of Dunwoody last year has left residents of Brookhaven uncertain about their municipal future.
Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven) said in a community meeting in late January at Chamblee United Methodist Church that the possibility of creating a city of Brookhaven is likely off the table at the moment.
“Right now, it’s a very, extraordinarily difficult time to be coming online as a new governmental entity,” he said, citing the economy. The community, however, needs to “start thinking where we want to be in the long term.”
Collette McDonald, an at-large director of the Ashford Alliance Community Association, also represents part of the West Nancy Creek Civic Association. Her area consists of a mix of homes that are not necessarily organized into subdivisions and aren’t being considered for annexation.
“We’ve seen this trend for years. We’ve known that Dunwoody was going to become a city, and all the cities around us, and we could certainly get left out of, in our opinion, tax bases and public services,” she said.
The possibility that sections of unincorporated northern DeKalb County inside I-285 could be annexed into Chamblee “concerns a lot of folks,” she said.
Tom Cutler, who lives in the Sexton Woods subdivision, said he wants his neighborhood to join the city of Chamblee. He lives west of Ashford-Dunwoody beside Chamblee and said dissatisfaction with DeKalb County isn’t necessarily what motivates him.
“In addition to having the backbone of DeKalb County, having a strong city is a good, viable option for having disputes settled or zoning issues,” he said. “The sense of community is stronger when you have a government that is doing civic things.”
He said that being part of the city would help foster a sense of community in his neighborhood, although the possibility of neighborhoods being excluded worries him. Not all neighborhoods have expressed interest in annexation, though.
“I’d rather have local representatives that live in my neighborhood that I can talk to when I’m out for a walk and not have to drive down to Decatur,” Cutler said.
Linda Taylor, the president of the Oglethorpe Estates Civic Association, said the possibility her neighborhood could be part of a narrow, unincorporated strip worries her because public services could be affected. Still, she hasn’t heard any active support for or opposition to annexation.
“I’m sure we’ll consider it and talk about it again, but it just hasn’t happened yet,” she said.
Nick Guerrero, who represents the Ashford Alliance and Huntley Hills, north of Chamblee, said he generally favors annexation. “I’d rather deal with a mayor and city council rather than a CEO and board of commissioners.”
If the push for annexation continues, the parcel north of Chamblee and the parcel west of it could be considered separately.
Jacobs said during his community meeting that the parcel north of Chamblee is more feasible for annexation than the smaller area to the west of the city. It also has stronger community support in favor of annexation.
In a later interview, Jacobs said it’s difficult to predict how Brookhaven will develop. He urged a holistic approach to the issue.
“I am very wary of making a decision to go ahead with an annexation without taking a look at what works best for the entire north Brookhaven community,” he said. “We’re not looking to railroad anything down any neighborhood’s throat. And that’s going to be a guiding principle of this discussion.”