If we want to move the Vista Grove area to an integrated city-county form of government, the time to do so is going to be 2021.
Why it important that we make this choice now?
While no one has a crystal ball, we see the ongoing trend of losing businesses and residents to annexations. And we know the forces that impel city creation, expansion, and growth are and have been set in motion. For a variety of reasons, and lacking their own city as an alternative, businesses and neighborhood areas continue to move from unincorporated DeKalb into nearby cities.
Remaining in the ever-shrinking unincorporated area is not a viable long-term option any longer.
The reality is that cities, and the city-county form of government, is here to stay. We are already surrounded by areas with a city-county form of government: Brookhaven, Atlanta, Decatur, Chamblee, Tucker. Through annexations into those cities, the remaining unincorporated area, of which we are a part, continues to dwindle.
Over the past five years, this march of annexation has continued and its pace accelerated: Briarcliff Village annexed itself into Tucker. Northlake Mall annexed itself into Tucker. Emory University annexed property into the city of Atlanta. Brookhaven has, through annexation, continued to move down the North Druid Hills corridor.
When those businesses move into nearby cities, the neighborhoods near them feel pressure. They want a means to influence development that may impact them. That pressure often pushes them to move. LaVista Park, which moved an extremely large residential area into Brookhaven, is a recent example.
To be clear, these are not cities forcing businesses and neighborhoods to move. These are choices those businesses and neighborhoods are making for their own reasons, including pressures generated as a result of this cycle of annexation.
As further annexation continues, eating away at the borders, it will also sap financial resources and limit the options of a new city. Right now, a new city would rest on a strong revenue base and diverse sources of revenue. But when commercial annexations occur, we lose the ability, by spending at local businesses who then contribute through their own license and tax payments to the area, to reinvest in ourselves.
Is there any reason to think this process will simply stop on its own?
It does not seem realistic to think so -- or to hope that we can remain, as is, in an unincorporated area that will not continue to shrink. While it would be nice to have more time, we have reached the tipping point in DeKalb. The benefits of cityhood are too visible, the expansion plans to existing cities too advanced, the demands of a growing population in this community too pressing.
Far more likely is that, the cycle of annexation of commercial, and compelled neighborhood annexations, continues as it has. If so, it will progressively work its way from the borders of our area inside, creating a shrinking residential doughnut hole at the center.
What is more, while annexation has been happening thus far parcel by parcel, at some point our legislators might be asked to consider a proposal for a larger expansion of existing city borders. Current cities have already commissioned the Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia to begin studying what overall municipalization would look like for the county as a whole.
There is one solution to piecemeal loss of businesses and neighborhood annexations, or to a proposal to have existing city borders swallow Vista Grove: Through a vote, through the thoughtful creation of our own city, one that reflects specific community priorities, we can shape our own plans.
If you agree, please take a moment to write to both of your legislators (State Representative and Senator), letting them know the following:
"I live in the Vista Grove area, and I am concerned with the process of continued annexation. I would like a choice about our form of local government and an opportunity to vote on city formation for Vista Grove. Please support legislation, like the Harrell-Parent bill, that will permit that vote in 2021."
You can find your Representative's and Senator's e-mail and phone number by clicking here and entering your address. Please not only e-mail, but take a moment to call their office and let them know you support Vista Grove and want to vote on city formation in 2021.