DeKalb County Dist. 2 Commission Jeff Rader is raising the alarm about Emory University’s request to be annexed by the City of Atlanta. Traffic, development standards and infrastructure concerns were all mentioned in a letter emailed by Rader to his constituents on July 16.

Emory formally filed a petition for annexation into the city on June 27, and DeKalb County has objected to it. A public hearing on the petition will be held by the Atlanta Zoning Review Board at city hall on Aug. 10 at 6 p.m.

Commissioner Jeff Rader

Here is Rader’s letter to his constituents:

As you may have heard, Emory University is leading a petition by Clifton Corridor institutions to annex into the City of Atlanta across a fifty-foot land bridge crossing Briarcliff Road just south of Sage Hill Shopping Center. On this page you will find documentation relevant to that action.

While the institutions are tax exempt and therefore do not represent an excessive erosion of the DeKalb County tax base, there are nevertheless several matters that should be of considerable concern to residents of the area, both outside and within the Atlanta City Limits.

The first is future zoning and development on the Emory Campus, and on land owned by other private land owners. In the past, the DeKalb County Commission has been responsible for balancing the needs of important and growing institutions against those of surrounding residents of unincorporated DeKalb County. That unity of responsibility would vanish should Atlanta assume land use authority over the institutional district. City Council members have no constituents in the surrounding unincorporated area, which is where the impact of new growth will fall. If Atlanta extends MARTA onto the Emory Campus as they have proposed, there is likely to be new development stimulated by the new access, and only a portion of the related travel will be conveyed via MARTA. Local streets like North Decatur, Clifton, Houston Mill, Biltmore, Lullwater, Springdale, Oakdale and Oxford and others would all bear the burden of increased traffic.

The second is the potential for follow-on annexations of surrounding properties. The same archaic state law that permits the unilateral institutional annexation will also enable developers to buy, annex, demolish and redevelop protected homes and commercial properties in the Druid Hills Historic District and nearby. Atlanta’s more permissive development standards and zoning policies ensure that the profit motive will dictate ragged parcel by parcel follow-on annexation that destabilizes surrounding unincorporated neighborhoods.

DeKalb County has notified Atlanta of its objections to the proposed annexation, citing differences in zoning, and DeKalb’s investment in infrastructure that serves the area. Atlanta has approached DeKalb County to propose that DeKalb continue to provide fire protection and emergency management services to the annexed areas, because Atlanta’s nearest fire station is the historic, but inadequate Station 19 in Virginia Highlands. These matters could form the basis of collaboration should the annexation occur, but DeKalb has been unsuccessful in getting Atlanta to recognize or discuss the destabilizing impact that such an intrusive annexation into unincorporated DeKalb would have.

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.