The battle over a prime piece of DeKalb County real estate appears to have quietly ended this week, but the showdown over the Century Center office complex was a hint of more fights to come.
“We’re not certain it’s completely over,” Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson said. “But we will still be a small to midsized city that will continue to provide services as we always have.”
Brookhaven voted to annex the 100-acre complex at Clairmont Road and I-85 in October. On Election Day, though, 11,000 residents in the area voted to become part of Chamblee – and bring Century Center with them.
Up for grabs, it appeared, was the 17-building office park that generates about $3 million every year in property taxes alone. The fight was headed to the state Supreme Court when the Brookhaven City Council voted this week to stop paying for the legal battle and withdraw its appeal.
Highwoods Properties, which owns the complex, could still fund its own appeal. No one could be reached from Highwoods for comment Thursday. A company official said previously that it had sought to join Brookhaven based on plans to further develop the site.
DeKalb is weighing how to encourage such new development in its mostly bedroom-community landscape.
Limited pockets of development in the county have other cities and would-be municipalities gearing up for similar fights in the coming year.
The Northlake area — targeted by the three would-be cities of Briarcliff, Lakeside and Tucker — may see the next action. The area, which includes a string of offices and shops surrounding Northlake Mall at I-285, would be critical to generating money for all three potential cities.
In fact, each of the cities’ feasibility studies, expected to be out by year’s end to determine the viability of the municipalities, will include projected revenues from the same disputed area.
Across the county, the proposed city Stonecrest and the existing small town Lithonia are laying similar claim to the Lithonia Industrial Park.
Large commercial areas generate more than property taxes for local governments. There are millions of dollars more to be had in business licenses, sales taxes and other fees.
Brookhaven’s decision to drop its bid for Century Center, for instance, will certainly affect its 2014 budget. City officials recently unveiled a $26.6 million spending plan based on new money from the office complex and a need to hire more police officers to serve the area.
The city will need to lop just $300,000 from its proposal before the next budget hearing on Nov. 26, said Brookhaven Finance Director Bonnie Kline.
Chamblee, meanwhile, is moving forward on hiring 23 additional police officers who will serve its new southern section. The area becomes part of Chamblee in January.