Photo Source: CBS Atlanta
When news broke about the possible creation of the city of Brookhaven, I was excited to live in the new city limits if the referendum were to pass. Immediately support signs for the proposed measure began popping up in neighbors’ yards along with ones that urged voters to reject a new layer of city government. I thought there could be many benefits to having a new city, especially the authority to form a local police department. The idea of local control sounded great to me, so I was curious why there was such opposition to this proposal.
It seems some of the concern stems from the fact that two very prominent neighborhoods within the city would be split up, Ashford Park and Historic Brookhaven (around Capital City Country Club). Part of Ashford is already annexed into Chamblee and now the other part is included in the new city of Brookhaven. Residents feel that an effort should be made to keep the neighborhood whole.
The Historic Brookhaven neighborhood is approximately 2/3 Fulton County and 1/3 DeKalb County. The residents main concern was using the name Brookhaven to define the city, a name that has been isolated to their neighborhood in the past.
Opponents to the new city are saying there is not enough commercial property in the city to generate enough money to support the services provided by the city, namely the police force. They claim the new budget only allows for 53 police officers for over 49,000 citizens. However, the new city will only encompass a little less than 12 square miles and the current Dekalb County North Precinct is approximately 24 square miles. In my personal experience, I see City of Chamblee and Dunwoody police officers patrolling their precincts more often than DeKalb County officers. It also seems that crime in the area has increased in the past year and we need to concentrate more officers in these problem areas to reduce criminal activity. I believe the new city of Brookhaven will have the police protection it needs as well as better service and faster response times.
There are also the issues surrounding budget and taxes. Proponents are saying there will be a tax cut as well as a milage cap. The milage rate that goes to the city would be capped at 3.35 mils (down from 6.39 mils) and cannot be raised by the city except through a voter referendum. Opponents don’t trust the budget numbers that have been provided and believe that other fees, like franchise fees on certain utilities, may mean in the end that homeowners will be paying more. There really is no way to know who is right until the city has elected its officials and starts running operations.
Some additional positives to the new city that stand out to me are having a stronger voice in a local municipality, lower taxes, more efficiency, improved parks and a concerted effort to revitalize the corridor along Buford Highway.
When it came time to vote on July 31, 2011, the results were very close. Voters approved the measure by a 55% – 45% margin.
I am optimistic that the pros of having a new city will outweigh the cons. The new city of Brookhaven will assume operations at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 17, 2012. All DeKalb ordinances will remain in effect until Brookhaven’s mayor and city council choose to change them.
~Stephanie McGinn, Marketer for the WOW Team