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Sunday, February 23, 2014

First and Ten on the Forty, and Briarcliff . . . PUNTS?

The City of Briarcliff Initiative Changes Its Map

With the General Assembly deep into its 2014 session, the City of Briarcliff Initiative (COBI) took a hard look at its options and opted to redraw its map. Perhaps in response to pressure from its legislative sponsor, Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D)  House District 82 (who also lives in Decatur), COBI chose to defer to the existing cities of Decatur, Avondale Estates and Clarkston and their supposed annexation plans, and redrew its southern border to totally avoid conflicting with those proposed areas.

Let's hope we no longer have to hear their tiresome refrain of 'Logical Borders.'

We should also question why COBI didn't also pull back its eastern border so as to avoid conflict with the proposed City of Tucker in the Northlake area. As that area has been a subject of contention for all these several months, where neither side demonstrated any true desire to compromise, this would have been a particularly positive gesture to its kin in Tucker.

In moving their proposed southern border to the north, COBI also removed considerable commercial and industrial properties from their map, which could seriously impact the expected financial situation, as studied in the Carl Vinson Institute feasibility study.

As posted in the blog, both Decatur and Clarkston have studied annexation options in various areas surrounding their respective cities.  Decatur's interest in growth goes back several years, and has typically targeted commercial areas immediately adjacent to the City's existing borders. They have also avoided any large scale annexation of adjacent residential areas, specifically due to the potential negative impact on the City's school system. Annexation efforts pursued by Decatur in 2007 and 2012 were unsuccessful, largely due to resistance from the targeted areas, internal differences within Decatur itself and/or the failure to realize legislative sponsorship.  Annexation has been a low and failing priority in Decatur in the past decade, so its difficult to believe that the situation has improved markedly just because of Briarcliff.

A new map, after the break.

The new City of Briarcliff - with Decatur and Clarkston Proposed Annexation.

The Clarkston situation is even harder to understand. Clarkston has shown little or no interest in annexing any area whatsoever in the past few years, and there is no reason to believe that their current interest is nothing more than a defensive gesture in reaction to the proposed new cities of Briarcliff and Tucker. The Clarkston areas also target mainly commercial and industrial properties, although this does include several apartment complexes and a significant residential population. But more importantly, the Clarkston areas of interest are mainly south and east of the City. Clarkston's proposals have specifically targeted 5 separate districts, in two Phases. Phase I only addresses a small area largely surrounded by Clarkston, and is an area not included in either Tucker or Briarcliff.  Phase II has been separated into 4 distinct areas. One area overlaps the Tucker map, and is mainly apartment complexes and low value shopping centers. Odds are high that Tucker will concede these areas to Clarkston, if their interest proves to be real. A separate area overlaps the Briarcliff map, and is an area of light industrial businesses and warehouses with no residential population. On the opposite side of I-285 from the existing City, it would not seem to be an area demanding to be included within Clarkston.

So even though Clarkston has only studied these 5 small areas, they have also included in their Phase II map extensive residential neighborhoods that were not studied at all. They apparently drew a large circle around Clarkston and then identified limited areas within that circle to target for annexation. The residential areas west of I-285 and north of US 78 will never voluntarily choose to be annexed into Clarkston. This map was just some sort of map drawing wet dream. But, amazingly enough, Briarcliff is taking this map seriously and, for whatever reason, is deferring to it. A pretend map. Drawn by Clarkston. That will never happen.

COBI - you need to get real and reevaluate your priorities.  The McClendon Drive and Scotdale neighborhoods should remain in your map. The commercial areas north of Decatur should remain in your map. Decatur, Avondale Estates and Clarkston have had every opportunity to take in those areas, and they have unwilling and unable to do so. What a huge mistake. 


  1. COBI is not a serious effort. Look at the mess it's board has always been -- and who its mouthpieces are now. Young Keith and Socialist Who Claims to be a Board Member But a Isn't Listed on the Web Site Jeff. Where's Herman? Where's Don? Radio silence.

  2. It's difficult to know what any of these groups rationales are for their boundary lines at times since they all have issues with transparency. However, given the nature of what's at stake, I expected there to be a land rush and for boundaries to change and continue to change.

    I include Tucker in that group. For example, WABE has a cityhood story here:

    Look at the map. It's different from the only one Tucker2014 has ever had posted on their web site. This "new" map leaves out the parts of Doraville west of 85 and the Brockett Road corridor in Clarkston. I have not seen these changes mentioned anywhere else online. Were they made prior to the hearing with the House subcommittee yesterday?

    These two areas were never considered to be part of Tucker prior to 2013. It would make more sense for them to be annexed into Doraville and Clarkston. However, just as Briarcliff's new map leaves them with less revenue, so does Tucker's without the commercial, office and industrial of those two areas. And the same case can now be made for Tucker as was made for Briarcliff. If they are willing to adjust their boundaries, why not compromise on Northlake?

    1. I was predicting from day one of the Tucker map that it would have to change, as portions of it clearly conflicted with the interests of adjoining cities, while other areas simply made no sense. I do not believe under any scenario that the original Tucker map was drawn with any great understanding of Tucker at all.

      I suspect that a request was made to Elaine Boyer's office in a rather off hand way, as in 'We need a Tucker map. Elaine, could you help us with that? Oh, it needs to include Northlake, go up to Doraville, take in all of the Stone Mountain CID, and let's make sure we include all of the Tucker HS attendance zone.' So, the poor sap in the DeKalb GIS office took a shot and did the best he could without a whole lot of detailed direction. This map was clearly drawn for his convenience, and was not vetted afterwards by any one in Tucker with any map sense at all.

      Case in point is the little blip that lies west of Briarcliff Village, in a block bounded by Harobi, Ladovie and Zelda. Nothing of note there and their ties to Tucker are minimal at best. I think this was just a glitch in using the GIS software, as it was simply easier to follow streets than property lines. Yeah, sure, keep the nearby commercial blocks, but the residential blocks should be taken out.

      The play towards Doraville was sloppy at best, although including the commercial areas north of I-85 makes perfect sense. In previous years, Doraville had tried to annex only residential areas, and had ignored the commercial/industrial areas nearby. So, if Doraville truly didn't want the commercial districts, Tucker was happy to include them, especially under the fuzzy mandate of not leaving any 'islands.' At the same time, I think it was well understood that if Doraville objected and formally acted to annex all the area north of I-85, Tucker would immediately acquiesce.

      The areas adjacent to Clarkston are more debatable, although it was no great loss for Tucker to concede them (think Strokers!). The area conceded to Clarkston is low rent commercial and apartment blocks, and are wholly within the Tucker HS attendance area. Those residents do have close ties to Tucker, and are more likely to conduct their daily affairs in Tucker rather than Clarkston. While Clarkston had never acted to annex that area before, in 2013 they did perform a financial study and their interest is genuine. A fair and expected concession. Perhaps the residents and business owners should be allowed to choose for themselves.

      My last area of concern are the apartment and condo complexes off of Juliette Road, north of Stone Mountain. This area makes the least sense of all. On the edge of the Stone Mountain CID, that area has little commercial development, and its residents have little or no interest in Tucker. Juliette Road crosses the Stone Mountain Freeway on a narrow bridge to access a Pentecostal Church and a Georgia Power service facility, and nothing else. The only way to get there from Tucker or Smoke Rise proper is by using a golf cart, crossing the golf course. This area will be difficult to service and its residents have little reason to participate in a Tucker city government. Their ties are to Stone Mountain Village, and to the Stone Mountain commercial district further east on the freeway, in Gwinnett County. They should never have been included in the map. I do wonder if the Tucker 2014 folks have even visited this area, much less conducted a community meeting. Odds are those residents are totally unaware of Tucker's interest.

      So Tucker's recent concessions to Doraville and Clarkston were reasonable and expected. But, IMHO, they do need to go a little bit further.

  3. Logic here is that existing cities have priority over proposed cities. That's why Briarcliff backs off potential overlaps with existing cities, seeks to maintain as much of a logical border as possible, and doesn't change its line that overlaps with Tucker. Tucker isn't an existing city, and like Lakeside it is a proposed city. Keep in mind some of the strongest testimony on Tucker's behalf at the Tucker hearing at the Capitol on Thurs 2/27 came from Briarcliff.

    Something you also have to consider is any cityhood changes done, have to be made through several lenses, with the biggest one being something that voters will respond well to in a general election. There's two fronts here, getting through the legislature and winning a voter referendum.

    Those that are opted into COBI's Facebook and email newsletter will get breaking updates.

    p.s. very well drawn map.

    1. I beg to disagree Keith. COBI's concessions in these areas covered areas that Decatur had failed to annex in the past, even after several efforts, or were areas that had never been targeted before, by either Decatur, Avondale Estates or Clarkston. They've had plenty of opportunity to act to annex these areas, especially since 2005, and did not do so. That should mean something.

      Decatur looked to take in commercial areas only, as they could not handle any influx of new students in their school system. If the commercial property owners were interested, they could have cooperated with Decatur to be annexed without the need for county or General Assembly approval, through legal annexation methods that do not require a bill or a vote. There clearly was little or no interest from those areas in being annexed by Decatur.

      For Avondale Estates to be looking north and east towards the Farmers Market or Scotdale is simply a joke. Again, they've never shown interest before now, and I would think their community and governmental philosophy would preclude them from annexing large commercial areas. It simply is not in their DNA.

      And your reaction to Clarkston reflected a clear mis-reading of Clarkston's annexation plans. The areas north of the Stone Mountain Freeway were never targeted for annexation, were not included in their financial studies of the proposed Phase I and II annexations, and only fell into their map by happenstance. And I can't believe that anyone thinks those residents north of the freeway have any real interest in joining Clarkston. Not now. Not ever.

      This was simply a case of COBI overreacting to the older cities, perhaps only to garner some sympathy from your representatives in the General Assembly. As such, in removing substantial commercial and industrial areas, you have also gutted the conclusions of the feasibility study. That probably won't matter, as we have already seen the General Assembly ignore their own rules when they get in the way, even when all three incorporation groups have accepted them without question. Politics.

    2. I can understand the logic in theory that existing cities have priority over proposed cities. However, these decisions involve politics in which not everyone plays nice.

      What did Clarkston leaders tell you about their potential annexation plans? People have heard from both the mayor and city manager that they are only interested in Phase 1 and 2 of their plans, which barely overlaps with Briarcliff. They also appear to be very secretive about the larger annexation. I can understand wanting to have a back-up plan in place depending on what happens with the new cityhood proposals, but it would be nice to know if Clarkston leaders are truly considering a larger annexation.

      I haven't seen any actual progress on annexations for any city. No bills have been dropped; not even any committee hearings have been held. It doesn't even appear that Decatur was serious about any annexation attempts through the legislature this year. Their focus seems entirely on the small Parkwood annexation petition.

      I'm curious as to why Briarcliff also didn't leave out Druid Hills since some residents there are more interested in joining Atlanta?

      I'm sure Tucker supporters appreciate Briarcliff support, but that leaves me wondering what are Briarcliff and MMO doing about their own bill?