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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Q & A on Tucker Discussions

A member of Tucker Discussions, who I'll refer to as MNK, asked a set of simple questions on why we would want to become a city.  BD, who may be just a little bit biased, provided some answers.  You may or may not agree.

We need more questions like this.  The internet is proving to be incredibly effective as a real democratic process dealing with issues important to the community.  Twenty years ago, an open exchange of reasoned opinion and valid arguments, between interested and committed strangers, was almost impossible.  Now it can be everyday.  If you have questions, come here or go to Tucker Discussions and ask them.  You will be sure to get an answer.  You may not like the answer, but you are free to respond.  Become involved.  Let your voice be heard.  In the City, someone will hear you.


I keep hearing over and over again that its all about keeping money closer to home, but I guess I'm having trouble understanding why all this fuss over only three services - police, zoning, and parks. All other services will still come from the County. So my specific questions:

1. Is there some big problem people are having with Dekalb zoning that regular old homeowners like me may not know about? I know the bigger the county the more red tape, but what percentage of regular homeowners ever use this service on a regular basis?

2. I know crime is up, but if these cities are going to take over police is there a real plan proposed? Working with the same amount of money they would have given to the county for this service, will they have enough money to assign more police patrols and a larger force? Surely creating a whole new police force with office(s,) vehicles, and equipment will be expensive.

3. Do Dekalb parks in our area need fixing? Henderson seems about perfect to me, and the volunteer work being done at John's Homestead seems to be moving forward wonderfully. If smaller cities take over funding and volunteer forces that care for these places, will they have enough volunteer man power? Has anyone worked out funding and a plan for this?

4. How, if at all, will this effect property values for those both inside and outside the city limits.

To me, a Tucker homeowner, I am skeptical that the above three services really warrant the added trouble of creating a whole new city. I would love to hear the answer to these questions from the perspective of each of the three cityhood proposals in our area.


From my own personal perspective, as well as someone who is working diligently towards forming a new City of Tucker, I'll try to address your concerns.

1.  Zoning issues don't usually affect the homeowners directly.  However, as a member of the community you should be concerned over zoning issues that come up on a regular basis in commercial districts, or as redevelopment occurs in residential neighborhoods.  Zoning and planning go hand in hand.  The county has developed a comprehensive planning guide to control growth over the next 20 years.  However, there is always considerable pressure, from property owners, business owners, developers and political leaders, to deviate from that plan. So, the real concern is that 1) the planning was established with little if any local input, and 2) the political powers are often inclined to approve exceptions to that plan, largely for financial reasons.  In DeKalb County, the developers work the rules to their favor in concert with the county commissioners, to maximize their profits from their investments.  Often their decisions are not in the best interests of the immediate neighbors. When zoning changes are made public, it is often too late for the immediate residents to take action, as they are usually unfamiliar with the pending changes and are often unschooled in the process. Politically, the local county commissioner has been given unfettered rights to make the ultimate decision on zoning and planning changes, and the county zoning office will usually take their direction. With a city in control, those decisions are brought much closer to home, the process will more transparent, and the political influence of the developers, with their money, less likely to prevail against community interests.

Several years ago, the Tucker community was very much against the WalMart development, but there was no local organization with the political muscle to stand in the way.  If you go to some of the Tucker strip malls, you will find strip clubs, dance clubs and other activities that are not community based, do not have a local market, that encourage illegal activity and which are not effectively prevented or controlled by the county authorities.  A city, responding to resident complaints, can effectively step in and prevent or control such activities.  In the Lakeside community, there is a continuing problem with McMansions, where older homes are being demolished to make way for high end development totally out of keeping with the rest of the neighborhood. The immediate neighbors pay a price with depressed values for their homes, as their only market are those same developers whose only interest is to replace them with more expensive McMansions. A locally focused city development authority can put a stop to that. The Druid Hills area is currently in a battle to prevent redevelopment of a large, older property into several smaller homes, totally out of keeping with the entire neighborhood.  The fight has proven tough because of the potential profits for he developer, and the financial interests of a detached county commissioner.  A local city, respecting the rights and interests of its citizens, can put a stop to all that.

2. A city police force will keep its officers and resources at home.  We do have the DPD Tucker Precinct here locally, and the police HQ here as well, but our police usually spend their time in distant, more troubled communities.  If our current locally generated taxes can support a police department of say 50 officers, but 80% of them are never in Tucker, is that an effective use of our taxes? Are we getting what we think we are paying for?  No, of course not. I only see the police as they come and go to the Tucker Precinct, rarely in my neighborhood.  My neighbors and I have been requesting police enforcement of a stop sign that is routinely ignored.  In ten years, we've only seen enforcement two times, both in a single week.  A city police force will be focused on our community, will be familiar with our streets, homes and businesses and will be there when we need them.  I cannot say that about the county police.  Our police do a terrific job with the resources at hand, and we certainly value their presence, but we deserve so much better, and a city is the means to do that.

3.  DeKalb parks need more attention and more money. Compare our local parks with those in Gwinnett.  Ours are old, have had marginal maintenance and are simply not what they could and should be. A city based parks department will respond to local needs, and hopefully invest in future development that the county can't or won't.  The volunteers come from the local neighborhoods.  If a city is responsible, those volunteers will still be there, and will get even more support.  None of the city planning groups are working at the nitty gritty details of parks management as that will come after the CVI study.  But you only need look at Sandy Springs, where the city has taken a highly proactive approach to park development and building new parks with wonderful facilities.  Dunwoody is on the same path.  The examples for what a city can do are already in place, and their experience will be a good guide for Tucker.

4.  A new city, if it is proactive in promoting security, encouraging  desirable economic redevelopment, building new parks, keeping our roads in repair and creating a higher standard of living, will only prove to make our community more attractive for future residents and prospective investors.  Making our city more attractive to live and work in will only increase our property values. Those outside the city limits may benefit from the coat tail effect, but could easily be left behind at the mercy of a county government not focused on their needs.

I'm just one guy thinking out loud.  But as I research new cities, I become more and more convinced that a new City of Tucker will the best thing that could happen, for you and I, for our neighbors, and for our community.

1 comment:

  1. As a Chamblee tucker road home owner, I would like to comment on high
    volume of Tractor Trailer traffic speeding and using road to cut thru
    to I-85.If they have no delivery on Chamblee Tucker Rd. they should not
    be allowed to use, and signs posted.