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Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst and City Council are calling for DeKalb County to allow residents to vote on the annexation of Toco Hills neighborhoods.

After tense meetings held this week by DeKalb County and Brookhaven about an application to annex Toco Hills neighborhoods, the city is shifting gears.

A petition for the annexation of Merry Hills and Biltmore Acres was filed on May 30, showing 64% of the area’s 1,390 active voters and 62% of landowners are in favor of the move. But the validity of signatures was called into question at public meetings when two parties said they never signed in favor of the annexation.

Other residents said they felt the process was rushed. Several businesses registered their distaste for the annexation. EDENS, partial owner of the Toco Hill Shopping Center, submitted a letter to DeKalb County objecting to the proposed annexation.

At the conclusion of a June 30 special called meeting, the council unanimously voted to pass a resolution asking DeKalb to put a referendum on the November ballot.

“People want to stay together and have a chance to vote,” said Ernst. “In fact, Dekalb CEO Mike Thurmond wants to give people a chance to vote. Thus, Brookhaven City Council and I will take up DeKalb’s request to put the annexation on the ballot this fall.”

“Let the people vote,” said Councilmember John Funny, whose district stands to increase if an annexation happens.

Ernst said until the county agrees to a referendum, the city of Brookhaven is required to honor the annexation application its received.

The annexation area is defined as the entire unincorporated areas south of I-85, west of Clairmont Road and north of the Atlanta city limits. The move eliminates islands of unincorporated areas, an issue residents expressed concern over at recent public meetings.

Brookhaven asked for an answer from DeKalb County by 12:01 p.m. on July 25.

“Annexations are a serious matter. There’s a democratic process, wrapped up in complex state requirements. Brookhaven is following the state law and honoring the wishes of hundreds of property owners and registered voters in DeKalb County,” said Ernst.

A call to DeKalb County was not returned.

Brookhaven also announced it’s “pausing pending review” a contract with Rosetta Stone Communications, a company hired to assist the community in completing an application for annexations, including collecting the required signatures.

Brookhaven hired Rosetta Stone Communications on Jan. 1, 2022, and has paid the company $273,500.

“The mayor and council are aware of serious allegations made involving annexation,” said City Attorney Jeremy Berry.

The city is reviewing the claims of forged signatures, including those raised by St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church.

Logan C. Ritchie writes features and covers Brookhaven for Rough Draft Atlanta.