Chamblee Mayor and Council choose to pass on LaVista

Hills area annexation request
108 Years! That is how long the City of Chamblee has been an incorporated
municipality in the state of Georgia. And as we celebrated our centennial in 2008, I
spoke regularly about how we as residents of Chamblee were grateful to those individuals
that had the vision and wisdom to start this great city.
There are many reasons that we feel compelled to be grateful to these visionaries of the
past, most of all, for the high level of services that the city has, and continues to provide
year after year. In recent years others have come to see the value of local government
that cities provide. Cities are absolutely not another layer of government, but rather a
form of government different than that of counties which are often too large and too
cumbersome to truly meet the challenges faced by a local community. Cities provide
heightened services and more responsive representation where self determination and self
governance are truly the way we work. In 2008 The Municipal Government Committee
for the Georgia Municipal Association had a policy recommendation that read, in part,
“Recently, Georgia has witnessed a surge of interest by various communities in the
benefits of municipal government. As the level of government that is closest to the
people, municipalities offer home rule that gives citizens greater influence in the
character of their community and the nature of services that they wish to receive. As an
entity that supports home rule and the benefits that municipalities offer, GMA is
supportive of their aspirations.”
So, it should come as no surprise that others have looked to form new cities or be
annexed into existing ones. Chamblee has practically tripled in both land area and
population since 2010. Almost all of this has been through annexation. In both recent
annexations, Chamblee officials were approached by citizens of the unincorporated
neighborhoods asking for the opportunity to vote to become part of the City of Chamblee.
In both cases the annexations started off rather quickly and then took a pause as other
interests were considered. In the case of the first annexation, because of the pause, many
of the neighborhoods that I feel to this day should be in Chamblee ultimately became part
of the new City of Brookhaven. Regardless, things happen for a reason and Chamblee is
no worse off because of this.
Now we have been approached by another group of neighbors requesting that they too be
allowed to vote on a proposal to be annexed into our city. Many have stated that the
timeline for this proposal is too short and that things are moving too quickly. The City
Council and I agree. Unfortunately, the timing of a decision is not always perfect, and in
this case the Council, Staff, and I have decided to take a pause in the consideration of
annexing any other residents into Chamblee at this time.
The City Manager and staff have been working to determine the feasibility of this
proposed annexation request and the initial indications are that it would be fiscally
feasible. However, given our decision to hold off consideration of the annexation request,
staff will discontinue any further efforts towards completing an internal feasibility study.

Should it be decided at a later time to again consider this annexation request, the study
can be continued where it left off.
It is well known that the Carl Vinson Institute of Georgia (CVIOG) conducted a
feasibility study for a City of LaVista Hills as it was originally proposed with a
population of 67,446 and concluded that it would be fiscally feasible. Why then, did
Chamblee choose not to have CVIOG or some other research body do another study on
this new area and instead depend upon city staff to determine its feasibility?
In the Executive Summary, the CVIOG Study authors wrote that the study sought to
determine “whether the services sought to be provided by a hypothetical city along with
the necessary administrative apparatus can be adequately funded by the revenues that
would be available.” They further wrote “the study is not intended to be a model budget
for a new city. A newly elected city council will endeavor to represent their
constituencies and will have a set of priorities that may impact both taxing and spending
patterns.” In simpler terms, will the available revenues be sufficient to provide the
services that the new city desires? To answer this question, CVIOG extrapolated
expenditure data from two comparison cities and approximated the revenues as a ratio of
unincorporated DeKalb County revenues. Their conclusion was that “likely available
revenues exceed likely expenditures for the services identified to be provided.”
When considering the feasibility of annexing roughly half of the original LaVista Hills
area into Chamblee, the city is no longer hypothetical and the services to be provided,
and their associated costs, are known and based upon historical data. Similarly, many of
the revenue sources can be calculated directly from real and personal property tax digests
or occupational and alcohol license data while using Chamblee’s tax rates rather than
DeKalb County’s. The rest of the revenue sources can be estimated with the same
methodology used in the preparation of the city budget. In fact, determining the fiscal
feasibility of annexing into Chamblee essentially amounts to preparing a model budget
which includes the area requesting to be annexed combined with the existing city and
determining if it is balanced.
While a new city would be starting from scratch, a significant portion of the expenditures
referred to by the CVIOG Study as “administrative apparatus” are already included in
Chamblee’s current budget. City staff is best qualified to determine the additional
resources necessary to provide the same level of service to an annexed area as that
already provided in Chamblee.
Community involvement is vital to the success of any city. Volunteering for committees
and attending events as well as council meetings are just a few ways to get involved.
There are other ways as well. In 2004, I was on the City Council that started to plant the
seeds of growing an informed citizenry. The city started conducting an annual class
titled Chamblee101 that is designed to inform and educate citizens about local
government. It includes discussions and interactive activities on topics such as
Chamblee's history, form of government, city services, budgeting and finances, volunteer
boards, organizations and opportunities in the City. The class also offers a chance to tour

City facilities such as City Hall, Public Works, and the Police Department, and to meet
various department heads for question-and-answer sessions. While we are fortunate to
have several wonderful departments in Chamblee, public safety is our largest department.
Not only do we have our own police force, we have our own 911 system where the
average response time is less than 4 minutes. Whether you currently reside or work in
Chamblee, or you hope someday to do so, please get involved with our city in one way or
Regardless of our size, Chamblee will continue to re-develop even further into a modern
community while maintaining that small town charm that has lured so many here in the
past and will continue to draw others to this city in the future. The city is working hard to
further create this sense of place, complete with bike and pedestrian trails, landscaped
streets, and architectural designs that invite people to stroll down wide sidewalks and
gather at festivals.
It is with great honor and pride that I serve as Mayor of the City of Chamblee. As we in
Chamblee recognize our first 108 years in existence, I can’t help but think how
remarkable it would be for the future citizens of Chamblee to be celebrating their 200th
birthday, grateful for the decisions that had been made over the past 200 years!

R. Eric Clarkson
City of Chamblee