Author: John Ruch

Some DeKalb residents are missing water bills, but won’t lose service

More than 1,000 Brookhaven and Dunwoody customers may not have received their DeKalb County water bills on time. The county says it will not suspend their water service while it tries to figure out the billing problem. “Somebody called us and said, ‘Hey, we’re getting [water] cut-off notices, but we didn’t get a bill,’” said DeKalb County spokesman Burke Brennan. The “handful” of complaining customers have similarities in their locations and billing cycles. That makes the county believe that the problem is limited to a maximum of 1,025 customers in Brookhaven and Dunwoody, Brennan said. The county services more than 200,000 water customers in total. The basic problem is some customers not receiving their water bills in the latest 60-day cycle. The county is working to figure out the cause of the billing problem and identify all effected customers. In the meantime, no one’s water service will be suspended. The DeKalb Department of Watershed Management will work out a payment plan with any affected customers later. “We know about the issue. We’re on top of it,” Brennan said. For more information, or to check the billing status of an account, email dekalbwaterbillingfn@dekalbcountyga.gov or call 404-378-4475. The Watershed Management website is...

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As homeowner taxes rise, some commercial rates flatline

When Brookhaven homeowner Thomas Spencer saw the property tax bill on his three Sunland Drive houses jump 48 to 80 percent this year, he thought that at least he shared the pain with many neighbors. But not all of them. Looking at tax records, Spencer was surprised to see that several adjacent commercial properties—including the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce office and the former Mexican consulate complex—had no change in their bills. And those properties’ assessments were less than one of his houses alone. “It’s a mystery to me,” Spencer said. “It just seems to me be grossly unfair for residential property owners to be paying ever-higher property taxes…[while] at least these commercial properties are having such low assessments.” He wondered if the reason was “gross incompetence” or worse. Calvin Hicks Jr., DeKalb County’s chief appraiser, said there’s a simple reason that some commercial property tax assessments didn’t go up: The county chose not to reappraise them. This year, DeKalb appraisers skipped several types of commercial properties. In an email, Hicks said that “primarily these were apartments, convenience stores, hotels and retail uses.” The small office building where the Brookhaven Chamber is a tenant falls under the type not appraised. And the former consulate’s value may be depressed by possible contamination, Hicks added. Hicks said that county appraisers decide which property types to reappraise by comparing real estate sales with...

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After nine years, adult business lawsuit heads to trial

A federal lawsuit filed nine years ago that challenges Sandy Springs’ adult-business restrictions as unconstitutional is finally slated for trial on Aug. 18. But the city may have changed the playing field with a quiet, last-minute zoning change that essentially allows strip clubs and adult bookstores to operate in more areas. “We were never told” that zoning change was coming, said Cary Wiggins, the attorney representing three local adult businesses in the lawsuit. The move could delay the trial, he said. City Attorney Wendell Willard and Scott Bergthold, the Tennessee attorney representing Sandy Springs in the lawsuit, did not respond to questions. In the lawsuit, the adult bookstore Inserection and the strip clubs Mardi Gras and Flashers allege that the city is trying to force them out of business with laws violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments. First filed in 2006, the case has dragged on in part due to previous tweaks of the city code. It is one of four lawsuits still pending in the local legal war against adult businesses that dates back to pre-cityhood Fulton County ordinances in the 1990s. The businesses argue that the city is making up excuses to shut them down for moral reasons. The city has argued that the businesses create criminal activity. Wiggins also represents Inserection in a spinoff suit challenging the city’s obscenity law banning sex toys. An appeal in...

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