Avondale Estates, Decatur waging property battle

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga.,None —

A war is brewing between two cities fighting for a parcel of land sandwiched between Avondale Estates and Decatur.

Avondale Estates and Decatur have been eying the one-square mile area for years, saying the modest piece of property is run down and needs improvement. But sources told Channel 2's Tony Thomas the debate boils down to tax dollars.

Charles Blalock owns three of the 21 commercial properties Avondale Estates wants to annex. Decatur wants 10 more. Blalock said his taxes will go up and his property value will dip if he is forced into the city.

"This is ours, mine and my wife's retirement," explained Blalock, who said Avondale Estates is not business-friendly.

"They have a lot of ordinances on their signs," he told Thomas.

Most of the affected property owners are fighting the move, wanting to instead stay in unincorporated DeKalb County.

This group disagrees with the common complaint that their area is crime ridden and run down.

"Ride through Avondale, clean up your own house before you tell someone to clean up their house," property owner Joe Garguilio said.

Thomas reported that the ongoing battle goes back several years, but the cities have never been able to push it through. Unlike residential annexation, where voters have a say, commercial annexations are left up to state lawmakers.
Retiring lawmaker Stephanie Stuckey Benefield has pushed the annexation for 14 years, but never had the support at the Capitol. She thinks that's changed this year.

"I'm going to do my best to make sure this passes. I think it's needed," added Benefield, who believes the local issue vote could go up before representatives Tuesday. "It's what the community wants."

Meanwhile, Blalock said he'll be ready to fight Monday at the Capitol.

"We will be at the Capitol Monday and talking with the representatives and the senators to try and stop it."