Proponents and opponents of Brookhaven becoming a city are squaring off over the issue of whether the city would have enough commercial tax base to support a new government.

On July 31, Brookhaven voters will decide whether to approve a new city in the area of unincorporated DeKalb County bounded by Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Chamblee and a portion of I-85.

Soon after both No City Brookhaven and Brookhaven Yes released their campaign finance forms, one of the biggest donors to the No City Brookhaven campaign, Mary Ellen Imlay, told the Brookhaven Reporter she didn’t think there will be enough of a taxable commercial base for a new government.

“Dunwoody has Perimeter Mall and all the Perimeter office parks to give tax money to the city,” Imlay said. “We don’t have that. We just have Buford Highway, and there’s just not enough commercial money there to run a city.”

Mary Ellen Imlay is the wife of John Imlay, an investor and one of Atlanta’s wealthiest citizens. The Imlays live in Brookhaven. Mary Ellen Imlay gave $17,600 of the couple’s contributions to No City Brookhaven.

On July 25, Brookhaven Yes sent out an email making the case that there is enough of a tax base there to support a new city.  The No City Brookhaven camp provided an email response to the Brookhaven Yes email claims. Both emails are reprinted here, unedited.

From Brookhaven Yes:

Brookhaven’s $604 Million Commercial Tax Base

Question: What do Cox Communications, AT&T, PepsiCo,, Crawford & Co. and Zurich Insurance have in common?

Answer: Each of these companies has its corporate headquarters or major corporate offices in the proposed City of Brookhaven.

DeKalb County and its coordinated “No City” campaign are trying to convince you that your new City of Brookhaven lacks a sufficient commercial tax base.

There’s a reason they are not telling you the truth. It is to protect Brookhaven’s commercial tax surplus for DeKalb County’s continued redistribution and misuse.

Click here to see the Perimeter Summit office complex, just south of I-285, which includes corporate offices for Cox Communications, PepsiCo,, Crawford & Co. and Zurich Insurance. This is in the city.

The total assessed value of the Perimeter Summit complex is $200 million.

Your new City of Brookhaven will also include Lenox Park, which is tucked off of North Druid Hills Road adjacent to Buckhead. Lenox Park is home to large-scale AT&T offices.

The total assessed value of the Lenox Park complex is $222 million.

And don’t forget Town Brookhaven, which has a total assessed value of $83 million. It’s subject to a 10-year tax abatement. Each year, more of the taxes from this development will benefit the City of Brookhaven.

None of the taxes from Town Brookhaven were counted as part of the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute study for the proposed City of Brookhaven. It’s a windfall that DeKalb and “No City” aren’t telling you about.

This doesn’t even include the various commercial properties along Peachtree Road, Buford Highway, Dresden Drive, and around the intersection of Ashford Dunwoody and Johnson Ferry Roads.

Brookhaven represents 14% of DeKalb County’s real estate tax base, but only 8% of the population. We are 27% percent commercial, whereas DeKalb is only 21% commercial.

Brookhaven’s commercial tax base totals approximately $604 million in assessed value.

DeKalb’s top administrator Richard Stogner has confirmed on two separate occasions that the City of Brookhaven will shift $25 million to $27 million of our tax dollars away from DeKalb County for the benefit of our community. He said it once on Channel 2 News and again in the DeKalb Champion (click to verify).

That’s more than enough revenue to run a full-fledged city, especially considering that the City of Dunwoody – with equivalent population size and land area – is only operating on $21 million in expenses this year.

If Brookhaven does not incorporate, the Perimeter Summit commercial property owners are ready to annex their properties into the City of Dunwoody. Here is what Dunwoody Mayor Mike Davis had to say about Perimeter Summit at a recent forum (click to verify): “The money is in the commercial areas. That’s a winner for us. Do we want your neighborhoods? We’ll talk, but we’re really not interested in your neighborhoods.”

A “No” vote on July 31 will ensure that DeKalb County will siphon your tax dollars elsewhere. A “No” vote will also ensure that Dunwoody will annex our commercial property and make our community less essential to DeKalb County.

A “Yes” vote will ensure that you retain your commercial tax base, keep $25 million to $27 million in our community, and gain local control over police, parks and roads.

Please consider participating in early voting this week.

You can vote TODAY through Friday, July 27, 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., at Chamblee City Hall, 5468 Peachtree Road. This location is not on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard. It’s in Downtown Chamblee across from the train tracks.

The City of Brookhaven referendum is the very last item on the ballot.

From No City Brookhaven:

The commercial tax base for the proposed city of Brookhaven has already been factored in to the original CVI Study. More importantly, after taking into account the $604 million dollar commercial tax base, the CVI Study shows (given the decline in 2012 property tax revenue) even after the city increases your property taxes by $166.00 per $100,000 of assessed value, from day one, the city of Brookhaven will be operating in a deficit.

Property taxes comprise almost 40% of revenue for the proposed city, and due to our lack of a large commercial tax base (Brookhaven is 27%, compared to Dunwoody’s 40%) the burden of paying for services falls squarely on the backs of homeowners, which is why people should vote No to higher taxes on July 31st.

Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of