Brookhaven will change the funding source for two city welcome signs after a civic association leader complained it wasn’t a good use of money from the LaVista Park special tax district.
Brookhaven annexed the LaVista Park neighborhood late last year as a “special tax district,” which means residents in the area will continue to pay the higher DeKalb County tax rate to cover costs for infrastructure improvements promised by the city.
Larry Hoskins, the president of the LaVista Park Civic Association, did not consider the $89,380 construction of two “Welcome to Brookhaven” monument-style signs an improvement to the area’s infrastructure.
“In the wording of the resolution adopted in September that established the annexation policy of the special tax district, it specifically called for projects that were deficiencies or improvements,” Hoskins told the council during the June 23 council meeting. “This monument clearly is not a deficiency, and I also fail to see how it is an improvement for LaVista Park.”
The council approved the construction contract for the welcome signs, but Mayor John Ernst said the city will change the source of the funding.
City spokesperson Burke Brennan confirmed the project will not come from LaVista Park funds and said the funding source will be identified later this year. Since the contract is approved, the change in funding will be administrative and not need another council vote.
The city has constructed six Brookhaven signs so far on city borders since the council approved a design in November 2017, according to the construction contract. The welcome signs are tall, stone towers with “Brookhaven” lettered down the center above the city seal with hanging vinyl banners with a welcome message on either side.
The two approved signs will be at the edge of the annexed area on LaVista Road and Sheridan Road. The city still has plans for two more signs in different areas of the city, Brennan said. These signs will not use LaVista Park tax funds, either.
Brookhaven may be annexing more land further south of the LaVista annexation at the request of some property owners, but Brennan said the possibility of the incorporation is still being reviewed by the state. The new area would not change the location of the welcome signs, Brennan said, because it would be a small extension of the city.
LaVista Park is Brookhaven’s first special tax district and annexation, so Hoskins said he expected a few “bumps in the roads.”
“They resolved it very quickly and very fairly,” Hoskins said.
Hoskins said the city has otherwise been communicative and responsive to LaVista Park residents and problems. He said city code enforcement officers have come to requests about rundown buildings and police have posted up at roads with heavy speeding.
At his request to fill potholes, the city fixed them within five days, Hoskins said.
“We feel really good about where we’re going and what we’re doing,” Hoskins said.
The city has a year to evaluate the infrastructure improvement needs of the entire LaVista Park area before they should start on road, sidewalk, stormwater and park improvements, Hoskins said.
The special tax district was enacted to be fair to residents of the other areas in Brookhaven while also responding to LaVista residents, according to the city. The higher tax rate allows for improvements to the annexed area without diverting tax money from other parts of Brookhaven.
There is no cap on the amount of time LaVista Park residents will continue to pay a higher tax rate than other Brookhaven residents.
Hoskins said he wasn’t thrilled that LaVista Park residents wouldn’t get the benefit of lower city taxes and instead have to keep paying the higher tax rate of unincorporated DeKalb County. However, he said he understood the logic and would rather pay the higher rate to see infrastructure improvements than to see no improvements from the county.
The annexation added 2,000 new residents to Brookhaven, including 601 single-family residences, two apartment complexes and eight commercial parcels across about 330 acres.
The LaVista Park Civic Association requested annexation using what is called the “60% method,” which requires 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.
Hoskins previously told the Reporter the association requested the annexation to have input in the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory Executive Park developments near North Druid Hills Road, I-85 and Buford Highway because LaVista Park is close to that area.