City of Tucker
By Zachary Hansen
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that before Brookhaven held a referendum that would have eliminated term limits for its mayor last November, it was recommended by a charter review commission set up by the city.
Despite efforts from Tucker city leaders, the state Legislature did not approve requests to annex dozens of acres into the city and remove term limits for city leaders.
In fact, neither initiative ever officially became a bill.
The city aimed to annex more than 67 acres of unincorporated county land near Northlake Mall without holding a referendum or requiring owner consent. City leaders also endorsed removing term limits for their positions, a recommendation from a commission that reviewed the recently founded city’s charter.
Both efforts were set to be sponsored by Rep. Billy Mitchell, a Stone Mountain Democrat who represents Tucker. A spokeswoman for his office confirmed that the DeKalb House Delegation decided against filing either piece of legislation as a bill, adding that they both could be revisited later. No further information was provided.
Tucker Mayor Frank Auman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was surprised neither piece of legislation gained traction. He added that the DeKalb delegations know what the city wants and encourages them to revisit both ideas next legislative session.
Since Tucker was chartered in 2015, the city has annexed properties, but it’s always done so based on public participation — not legislative approval.
In February, the city passed a resolution to ask the Legislature to annex 22 parcels to help alleviate service issues, such as land planning and roadway maintenance.
“It’s a real problem to get service delivery in there, which is really what cities are for, right,” Auman said.
Tucker is asking state leaders to allow the city to annex the area of unincorporated DeKalb that is colored orange on this map. The area is nearly surrounded by Tucker’s current city limits. Credit: City of Tucker
The land currently consists of hotels, office spaces, commercial properties and three apartment complexes with more than 2,000 residents. No single-family homes are on the site.
Auman said it’s been tough to get in touch with most of the property owners, which is why city leaders chose to go through the Legislature.
“The particular problem is many of those (properties) are owned by corporations or institutions who aren’t located here or have any kind of decision-making authority locally,” he said. “It got to a point where it’s really difficult to reach the people who could make a decision.”
Some properties can be annexed individually, but the city can’t annex a property that would create an island of unincorporated parcels surrounded by city land. He encouraged the property owners to reach out to the city to explore their options.
“This area that they are trying to annex into the city is such an island away from everything else (in unincorporated DeKalb) that it just makes sense,” Mitchell said during a DeKalb House Delegation meeting on March 17.
2 DeKalb cities ask court to settle annexation dispute, halt new apartment complex
Other delegation members were hesitant to endorse an annexation without holding a referendum or getting every property owner’s approval. Auman said the city is open to holding a referendum, but that decision would come down to the bill sponsors. For now, the status quo remains.
“We thought it would be an easy decision for them. They thought differently,” Auman said. “I think it’ll happen organically, but it’s just a shame the property owners in there will have to wait this much longer.”
Auman said he was especially disappointed the term limit legislation fizzled out, given the effects it will have on the city’s leadership next year. Three councilmembers are poised to finish their final term, while another seat on the six-person council is vacant due to the death of Councilman Bill Rosenfeld earlier this year.
“It became pretty urgent because of the timing this year,” he said. “The majority of the council, two-thirds, is up for election all at once, which they (the DeKalb delegations) all expressed is not ideal and not a good way to govern.”
The request to remove term limits for the mayor and councilmembers came from the city’s Charter Review Commission, which was established three years after the city was founded in 2015. It consisted of nine members appointed by state and city elected officials.
Tucker is the only DeKalb County city to have term limits on its councilmembers. It is one of four DeKalb cities — alongside Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Pine Lake — to have term limits for its mayor.
Auman said the commission’s list of recommendations was presented to the DeKalb delegations last year, but the term limits item fell by the wayside due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The City Council passed a resolution in February to affirm their support in removing term limits in hopes of making the item more of a priority.
Brookhaven residents voted down a resolution this past election cycle that would have removed mayoral term limits, but Auman said Tucker’s situation is different. Brookhaven also had a charter review commission, but it didn’t have any members appointed by the DeKalb delegation, unlike Tucker.
Auman will be up for re-election in November along with the district seats currently held by Pat Soltys, Matt Robbins and Michelle Penkava. A special election to fill the seat vacated by Rosenfeld’s death will also take place.
Read the original story on AJC.com.