It’s finally happening. After several years of debate, voters get to decide Tuesday, Nov. 3, whether to create LaVista Hills, a city that would stretch from an area near Emory University to the northeast side of Interstate 285 and encompass the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Toco Hills.
Mary Kay Woodworth of the LaVista Hills Alliance is confident that residents of the proposed city will vote to incorporate.
“Many members of the Toco Hills Jewish community want more police presence and LaVista Hills will be able to significantly increase the number of police in the area,” she wrote in an email. Many Jewish schools and synagogues are packed along LaVista Road, she noted, and “that creates unique zoning and pedestrian issues a smaller city like LaVista Hills can address more effectively than a large, unresponsive institution like DeKalb County.”
Josh Kahn of Congregation Beth Jacob agreed. “Our structure is not typical,” he said in a phone call. “We have some different needs from the rest of the county, and the county couldn’t care less. We don’t feel well served by DeKalb, and we’re well aware of the corruption issues. We want more police coverage than we get.”
A big concern is property crime, Kahn said, and for him it’s personal. “My wife’s car was stolen out of our driveway. It’s really shocking, actually. There is a constant drumbeat of break-ins, mailbox theft and scary stories of things happening in the Target parking lot. It hasn’t been dealt with by the county, and the reason is they’re not putting the resources into it.”
Joe Weiner, co-owner of Bagel Palace in the Toco Hill Shopping Center, is against the idea of incorporation. Standing outside his popular restaurant, Weiner referred to the lack of an industrial base that would create revenue for the fledgling city. “The tax base for LaVista Hills is very small,” he said, comparing this cityhood effort with previous ones. “Dunwoody has Perimeter Mall and all those office buildings. Brookhaven has Peachtree Road and Peachtree Industrial. What do we have, Briarcliff? Half of that went to Brookhaven already. It’s not going to work.”
Even Tucker, the other proposed city that is subject to a referendum Nov. 3, has more industry and a better tax base than LaVista Hills, Weiner said. He worries that speed traps would become endemic as a source of income for the new city and that taxes would invariably rise. “They keep saying there won’t be any tax increases,” he said. “There will be.”
He added, “They talk about having police but having to depend on the county for everything else. So what are you gaining?”
Both Woodworth and Kahn said it all comes down to how many people show up at the polls.
“As with most off-year elections, the voter turnout will likely be small. Our volunteers are working daily to inform residents and encourage them to vote,” Woodworth said.