Dunwoody News Alert

Saturday, November 25, 2006

City of Dunwoody, pros and cons

GoDeKalb.com, News, 11/20/06, by Mary Swint

BOC Disapproves City of Dunwoody Though Study Claims Impact on County Minimal

From the story:
The debate over creating a new City of Dunwoody got down to dollars and sense last week when DeKalb County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution opposing the incorporation and a citizens group presented findings that the city was financially feasible.

District 5 Commissioner Lee May, who sponsored the resolution, said it was time for the commission to take official action on the incorporation issue.

“It’s been general consensus on the commission that we are against the city of Dunwoody,” May said. “It was necessary to have something official and on the record to say we are opposed to this.”

The Board’s resolution, approved by a 5-1-1 vote on Nov. 14 (with Commissioner Elaine Boyer casting the only dissenting vote) was the second time this year the Board formally stated their opposition to the creation of a City of Dunwoody. This resolution and one in February called for a “complete and thorough analysis of all fiscal, administrative and operational consequences” of the proposed incorporation.
“This is about the right to vote,” Ken Wright, President of Citizens for Dunwoody, Inc. said in response to the Commissioners’ resolution. “We're disappointed that any elected official would not support the right of citizens to vote on what happens in their community

State Sen. Dan Weber sponsored a bill in this year’s legislative session to allow for a referendum on the creation of a City of Dunwoody on the northern end of DeKalb County. The bill did not pass but similar legislation is expected in the 2007 session of the General Assembly. Weber did not immediately return calls for comment.

At a public forum on Nov. 12, Citizens for Dunwoody presented to about 100 people information on the costs and benefits of incorporating Dunwoody based on a feasibility study by the Carl Vinson Institute and their own research. The study said DeKalb would lose $4.1 million annually from Dunwoody incorporation and the financial impact on DeKalb would be minimal.

Dunwoody’s preliminary budget could range from a $2.29 million deficit to a possible surplus of $4.71 million, according to the study. Some of the disparity is due to uncertainty on whether the county would share $1.6 million in HOST revenue with the new city.

The presentation said the proposed City Charter would cap the property tax millage rate at one mill above the current rate for the first three years. A citywide referendum would be required to increase property taxes above this cap. The property tax assessments for homeowners in Dunwoody would be capped for five years in accordance with the assessment freeze approved in a recent countywide referendum.

Much of the city’s revenue would come from property taxes, franchise fees and business licenses.
The BOC’s new resolution opposed incorporating the major regional retail center at Perimeter Mall and the Perimeter Community Improvement District (CID). It called this area “a vital part of the county.” The CID is a self-taxing district that uses additional property taxes on private commercial property for transportation and infrastructure improvements.

The resolution also opposed “legislation that would transfer assets to the proposed City of Dunwoody at less than the current fair market value, and the sharing of other revenues without the input of the County.”

If Dunwoody becomes a city, it would take control of Liane Levetan Park at Brook Run, Windwood Hollow Park, Dunwoody Park’s ball fields and Nature Center, and the historic Donaldson-Chesnut House. In the study, the Carl Vinson Institute estimated a transfer cost of $6.3 million for the three parks. The county has committed about $11 million in bond funds to expand facilities at Brook Run. Legislation may be introduced to ensure Dunwoody receives the bond funds.

Dunwoody would also get the North Police Precinct facility. A new precinct would be established south of I-285 for unincorporated DeKalb.

An Impact Fee Study for the county in November 2004 said the land at the North DeKalb Police Precinct had an estimated value of $1,625,000 and the county planned to replace the current building with an 18,000 square foot new building at an estimated cost of over $3 million.

The resolution said all residents of unincorporated DeKalb should be allowed to vote in a referendum on incorporation of Dunwoody. Weber’s 2006 bill would have allowed only the residents living within the borders of the proposed City of Dunwoody to vote in 2007 on whether or not to form the new city.

The new city’s boundaries would be the Fulton County and Gwinnet County lines on the west, north and east sides, and I-285 and the Doraville city limits on the south side. This would match the Dunwoody Homeowners Association’s traditional definition of Dunwoody.

Incorporation of Dunwoody would create another layer of government “that may not be any more responsive to the needs of the citizens in this area”, the resolution said.

Weber’s 2006 bill called for a Dunwoody city council composed of a mayor and six council members elected at large to represent three districts. The study presentation at the Nov. 12 meeting proposed a mayor and four council members for the new city that would have a population of 40,000 people. The study pointed out by contrast each of the seven county commissioners represents 140,000 to 350,000 people.

Two more forums on the Dunwoody study are scheduled for Dec. 14 and Jan. 21. More details about the Nov. 12 presentation may be found at http://www.citizensfordunwoody.org/


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