Last Wednesday, Emory University representatives spoke before the Druid Hills Civic Association regarding the University’s decision to seek annexation into the City of Atlanta. Michael Mandl, head of consulting company Mandl & Co., presented the choice as the logical next step for Emory as the University becomes an increasingly global institution as well as a way to introduce long-term transit improvements to Clifton Corridor.
Mandl and David Payne, senior director of operations for business and administration, represented Emory at the board meeting. Mandl worked at Emory for 13 years, most recently as the executive vice president for business administration, before leaving this past August to form an asset-advising company. Mandl confirmed that one of his first projects as a consultant to the University will be to lead the annexation effort.
This meeting marked the first time the University confirmed that increased Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) funding was one of the major factors in its hope to join the City of Atlanta. According to Atlanta Journal-Constitution, at a community meeting this past August, DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader speculated that Emory’s move was a way to seek increased transit funding in order to speed up development of the Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative.
The Clifton Corridor expansion was originally proposed by MARTA in 2012. According to an Aug. 17 public MARTA webinar, the current plan would see the Lindbergh Center and Avondale MARTA stations connected by light rail. A portion of the proposed rail line would run through Emory’s campus.
Atlanta voters will decide this November on a half-a-penny tax levy on purchased goods to fund transit improvements. Because the University currently exists as a part of unincorporated territory within DeKalb County, transit initiatives along Clifton Corridor would only be eligible for a part of that funding if Emory is annexed into the City of Atlanta.
This past June, MARTA held a public meeting detailing Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative plans, which are moving forward. A primary focus of the plans is to provide light-rail service to Emory University Hospital (EUH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). MARTA estimates the project will be completed 2025.
At the board meeting, Mandl said Emory will be pursuing the 100 percent method of annexation. According to Georgia Code, any individual who secures 100 percent of landowners’ signatures in a given area may petition to be annexed into a nearby city as long as the given area shares, at minimum, a 50-foot border with the municipality.
After an individual submits a petition under the 100 percent method, a vote by the Atlanta City Council is required to approve it, according to Georgia Code. The Atlanta City Council is composed of 15 members, including City Councilman Alex Wan, who is the director for development for Emory Libraries. Wan has already announced that he will abstain from the vote if a petition should be submitted because he is an Emory employee.
Emory released an Aug. 19 statement announcing it would be seeking annexation into the City of Atlanta. During the meeting, Mandl repeatedly echoed the statement’s sentiment that “The prestige of Emory as an international university and Atlanta as a global city are inextricably linked.”
Shortly after the University announced its intentions for annexation, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office issued a statement in August supporting the effort.
During the 2015 legislative session, the Georgia General Assembly discussed two bills to annex Druid Hills, areas of South Fulton County and parts of Emory’s campus into Atlanta. If passed, they would have put the question of annexation on the ballot this upcoming November. However, there was significant pushback from legislators representing DeKalb County as the measure expanded to include surrounding communities that also wanted to be annexed into the city. A compromise could not be reached before the end of the 2015 legislative session, so the measure ultimately failed.
Georgia Sen. Elena Parent, who represents Druid Hills, was among a group of 30 community members who attended the board meeting to learn more about the University’s plans. Representatives from both Medlock Park and Clairmont Heights Civic Association were also present.
Those who attended the meeting expressed some concern regarding whether the University intends to influence the surrounding communities to join in their annexation effort. Mandl assured meeting attendees that Emory has no interest in working with anyone outside of the CDC and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in its annexation movement and that it would not be “Emory’s proper role” to do so. Mandl explained that Emory believes individual communities, including Druid Hills, ought to decide if they want to pursue annexation for themselves.
Emory plans to submit a petition for annexation to the City of Atlanta before the end of 2016.