By David Pendered
Atlanta on Tuesday laid a big piece of its foundation for the upcoming legal effort to provide a seamless annexation into the city of Emory University and neighboring institutions. The move appears designed to address provisions in a state annexation law regarding future development and density in annexation areas.
On Tuesday, a city official, a committee chair of the Atlanta City Council, and a representative of Emory and several other institutions, made the move at a meeting of the Atlanta City Council’s Community Development Committee.
The collective case they made appears to seek to undermine any contention DeKalb County may make that Atlanta will approve increased density in the annexed area. Barring increased density, the annexation effort seems to be looking at green lights, according to provisions outlined in legislation the General Assembly approved in 2007,
All speakers on Tuesday seemed to be addressing the provisions of a state-mandated arbitration panel that is to provide guidance on the proposed annexation. Here’s the pertinent moment from Tuesday’s meeting of the Community Development Committee of the Atlanta City Council.
Chuck Palmer, representing Emory and all neighboring institutions except the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- “We are not seeking any land use changes in connection with this annexation. This is a mature, developed campus There’s no plans for development. But as part of the annexation process, we have to post zoning designations and land use designations. … Again, we are not seeking any particular land use change whatsoever.”
Committee Chair Natalyn Archibong, a lawyer, stepped in to augment Palmer’s presentation:
- “So, I understand that the land use classifications in DeKalb aren’t exactly the same in terms of descriptions or that; so, while you say you’re not changing them, you’re making them conform to the closest land use we have in Atlanta.”
To which Palmer responded:
- “That’s exactly right., Councilmember Archibong. You state it well. That’s what we’re doing.”
Essentially, advocates of annexation contended that any future development of the annexed area will differ little, if at all, from what is currently allowed by DeKalb County. Atlanta and DeKalb have similar land use districts, and Atlanta has additional shelves within each land use classification that don’t have bearing on DeKalb’s ordinances, city officials contended.
If an arbitration panel created by the state concurs with the city’s position, the annexation can continue unimpeded. Even if the panel finds issues, the city can annex the property and resolve the issues in the coming year.
- House Bill 2 established a process by which the state Department of Community Affairs will arbitrate differences between a city seeking to annex property and a county with concerns over the annexation.
- The law provides the arbitration panel consists of five members. DCA administers the appointment to the panels, maintains three pools of volunteers to serve on the panels.
- The panels are drawn from the three pools – current or recent city elected officials; current or recent county elected officials; and academicians with a masters degree or higher who are currently employed by an institution of higher learning in Georgia other than the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.