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Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Emory Has a Plan!
Well, maybe not so much - yet. But word on the street is that Emory is certainly exploring the option of being annexed by the City of Atlanta, and have had informal talks to that end. And they already know pretty much how they can go about it.
The recent incorporation debate between the City of Briarcliff Initiative (COBI) and the Lakeside City Alliance (LCA) certainly got Emory's attention, to the point they began to internally evaluate just what their identity was, and what impact possible incorporation would have on that identity. It certainly did not help when the proposed Lakeside southern boundary was bouncing around hither and yon just north of the Emory campus. When the surprise Lakeside map that was issued only after approval by the Senate committee, Emory was shocked to see the new southern boundary actually divided the Emory Campus in half. At that point they made it clear to St. Francis of Dunwoody that that was absolutely unacceptable and they demanded that the Emory campus, and the adjacent neighborhoods, be left out of the LCA plan. Regarding COBI and the City of Briarcliff, they were officially neutral to that proposal, as they realized there was little room for negotiation with COBI. However, that doesn't mean they did not speak privately with certain legislators in the General Assembly to make sure they privately understood Emory's position. But, by that point, the question was moot as it had become clear that Briarcliff would go nowhere as long as Lakeside remained a possibility.
In evaluating their identity, Emory concluded that there was a strong branding of themselves with the City of Atlanta, and that was a relationship that they wanted to preserve. To protect that relationship, it became clear that as long as the City of Briarcliff remained viable, after Lakeside failed to pass muster with the General Assembly, they needed to become proactive in the process, which led to their exploring the means by which they could be formally annexed by the City of Atlanta should that be the ultimate decision.
Emory lies close, but not adjacent, to the current City of Atlanta border. To the northwest, the campus, along with other university owned property, was only one block away from Atlanta. To the south, Atlanta was approximately 1/2 mile away, through the commercial properties at Emory Village, and a major portion of the Druid Hills Golf Club. Between those two points lay the western half of the wealthy, predominately white and liberal leaning, Druid Hills neighborhood, which itself had been debating whether or not they would prefer annexation by Atlanta rather than becoming an integral part of Briarcliff. So several paths lay open for them to combine with Atlanta.
If the decision was to include all or part of unincorporated Druid Hills, a third of which was already in Atlanta, an annexation bill would need to be approved by the state, followed by a popular vote of the affected area. A little chancy, as there was no guarantee a vote would go Emory's way, and, maybe most importantly, Emory would have no vote on the question at all. A second factor, critical to Atlanta, was the question on whether or not it would be wise to bring in a significant number of white, though still liberal, voters. If this approach became the preferred way, Atlanta's solution was simply to also annex predominantly African-American areas in southwest DeKalb County. Win-win for Atlanta, at DeKalb's expense.
The other annexation opportunity lay in the possibility of using the 60% or 100% Methods for Annexation, to be used only on the campus, and adjacent Emory controlled properties . (See the blog article Annexation Methods in Georgia, posted January 17, 2014, to understand the difference in the two methods.) What was valued in these two approaches was that a referendum was not required so that Emory could wholly control the process and results. The difference between the two methods is also critical. In the 100% method, ALL property owners must formally agree to the annexation, and only 50 feet of the proposed annexation boundary need be contiguous with the existing city. This is very attractive as Emory already controlled up to 98% of the properties in the area proposed for annexation, and the balance of properties that weren't under their control would likely be open to being persuaded to cooperate. The 60% method only required 60% of property owner's agree to the annexation, but also 60% of registered voters also had to agree, which may be more of a challenge, even though there are very few voters in the formal Emory campus areas. The biggest problem may be in the requirement that one eighth of the proposed annexation area's boundary had to be contiguous with the existing city boundaries. This requirement made the 60% method almost impossible to use, as too may residential property owners would be involved.
So the immediate focus is on using the 100% method to formally annex just the Emory University campus and Emory controlled properties adjacent to the campus. At this point I am assuming that both the CDC and the VA Hospital would also be included, as those properties are within or adjacent to the Emory campus, and are owned by the Federal Government. (This may or may not be the case as I have no knowledge either way.)
The following two maps illustrate one way this may take place, by using the 100% method and connecting to Atlanta to the northwest of the main Emory campus. To create the contiguous boundary only ONE property not controlled by Emory is needed to bring the plan together. And there are FIVE candidate properties, all of which are already partially in the City. It should not be too difficult for Emory to get at least one property owner to cooperate, if not all five. Even if all five were to be difficult to convince, Emory could easily purchase one or more of the properties, making offers the property owners could not refuse.
Map - Detail Enlargement for Atlanta Annexation of Emory University