published Sunday, April 26th, 2009

Hamilton County residents say ‘no thanks’ to city overture


by Cliff Hightower

Sitting on his riding mower outside his house on Lake Ridge Drive, Greg Edward looks over several Middle Valley and Hidden Harbor neighborhoods that could become part of Chattanooga in the next few years.

He built his house in the county three years ago to avoid paying city taxes. But if the City Council goes along with Mayor Ron Littlefield’s idea to annex large areas, Mr. Edwards could find himself paying those taxes after all.

“I don’t know a soul who wants to be annexed,” he said. “I’m hoping there’s enough people to fight it.”

Mr. Littlefield said last week he wants to move toward annexing all areas within the city’s growth boundary, a 20-year, countywide plan adopted in 2001. That could mean swallowing up miles of land toward East Brainerd and Collegedale and north along Highway 58 and Hixson Pike.

Mr. Littlefield said expected residential, retail and commercial growth from the Volkswagen plant at Enterprise South industrial park is spurring the need to annex so the city can manage services effectively.

Public safety already is an issue in some neighborhoods, he said. For example, he said, Cummings Cove in Lookout Valley is partly in Chattanooga and partly in an unincorporated area. That makes it difficult to provide fire protection.

Some Hamilton County commissioners who represent areas that could be annexed said the city may not have time to develop a plan of services.

“It’s a little premature,” said Commissioner Larry Henry, who represents the East Brainerd area.

But Mr. Littlefield argues that now is the right time for these discussions.

“We need to establish where the fire stations are going to be and make sure those areas are adequately served,” he said.

fighting inclusion

History shows he could have a fight on his hands. The last major annexation in 1972 brought in 10 communities and 32,000 people, according to newspaper archives. The annexation included large parts of Hixson, the DuPont plant, East Brainerd, Tyner, Murray Hills and Lake Hills.

Hundreds of people mobbed City Council meetings to protest, according to newspaper archives.

City officials contend annexation will improve fire protection and guarantee sewer systems. Brian Hundley, who lives in Rolling Ridge in East Brainerd, isn’t convinced.

“The only thing I think it would do is raise taxes,” he said.

The county property tax of $3.154 per $100 of assessed value supports schools, the jail, county parks, law enforcement and road maintenance, among other services. County residents have to contract separately for garbage pickup and most fire protection comes from volunteer departments. The county supports a network of drop-off centers for recycling.

The city tax of $2.20 per $100 of assessed value — on top of the county rate — helps pay for police, a paid fire department, parks within the city such as Coolidge and Renaissance parks and the 21st Century Waterfront, and city streets. Residents get garbage pickup, brush and trash collection and monthly curbside recycling.

In some cases, county residents see their services as better than the city’s.

Ann Burke moved into the Mountain Shadows subdivision last summer in the county and said her family gets recycling pickup twice a week.

“I haven’t come across anything I wished we had that we don’t have,” she said.

Kelly Payne lives in the Hunter Forest subdivision off Hunter Road. She said public safety isn’t much of a concern.

“A policeman lives right there,” she said, pointing at a neighbor’s house.

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cave_demon said...

If we wanted to live in the city, we'd move to the city. For those of us in the outskirts, suburbs, and sticks, we like it that way. Between this and the proposed city-county consolidation plan, it's painfully obvious that Littlefield is simply trying to boost the population numbers for Chattanooga, so that he'll get a bigger chunk of federal dollars in various funds and grants. You idiot city dwellers should've voted for Healy.

April 26, 2009 at 5:57 p.m.
IrishSkies said...

If Chattanooga wishes to remain a "Green City" then they need to keep their hands off of the East Brainerd area. The massive deforestation that took place along I-75 to build Hamilton Place mall is one of the reasons carbon emissions from automobiles are now out of bounds with Federal Standards. It's real simply thick, vast, tracts of land with trees soak up emissions, and the area along Gunbarrel road is now far from "GREEN" but GRAY and as paved over as the eye can see. Further commercial development in this area would only further aggravate the problem, and cost the city more in the long run.

April 27, 2009 at 11:31 p.m.
ShadowMountain said...

Legally, Mayor Littlefield cannot annex East Brainerd.

Current TN state laws mandate a 3.5 mile unincorporated buffer between city municipalities.

Annexing across Jenkins Rd. would place the Chattanooga City border right up next to Collegedale's borders, it was the reason Collegedale had to stop it's last annexation where it did.

April 27, 2009 at 11:48 p.m.
Gardener said...

Mayor Littlefield contradicts himself in his inauguration speech. He states the the VW/Enterprise South revealed inadequacies in city infrastructure and services to support the site, yet he also wants to annex new territories.

Why? - to serve those same inadequacies to other areas and further spread the city resources too thinly?

The city is already failing to deliver services to those of us already within city boundaries. We're being charged for sewer services and still have septic tanks. The police response time to Brainerd is slow and sometimes not at all. The 911 center misses calls. Curb side recycling is hit and miss, some areas are serviced while others are not. Plus, we've had to put up with that god awful chip seal on the roads, which is dangerous (cars slide on it and have trouble braking, and God help the poor school bus driver who has to drive over that stuff) and it makes Chattanooga look like a backwoods, gravel paved community.

You simply need to look at some back issues of The Times-Free Press over the past four years to see all the existing unresolved problems within the current city limits.

Before the mayor even considers annexing onto the city he needs to do right by existing city residents and have the city live up to it's obligation to provide equal services for existing city residents.

There is plenty that needs fixing right within the existing city limits. Adding new territory would only further aggravate existing problems and would necessitate the need to raise property taxes on existing city residents, in order to support the newly annexed areas, so that they would receive equal services as well.

And the idea that county areas must be annexed for safety reasons is simply ludicrous. If anything the county is most likely safer than the city.

I think the first commenter hit the nail on the head, this is nothing more than a foolish effort to boost population count for federal dollars, and perhaps a bit of a vanity project on the part of the mayor. If the mayor is trying to build a lasting legacy in his last term, restoring existing neighborhoods within the city to their former glory would be a much better project. Let the county take care of itself and focus your efforts on serving your existing constituents better.

April 28, 2009 at 8:16 a.m.

Come on Chattanooga, wake up and smell the coffee and then get a whiff of the wreaking stench of a power and land grab. I guess the Mayor thinks since Marti Rutherford is no longer in office to be the voice of annexation and speculative rezoning he needs to carry on her traditions and agenda. Maybe he will hand out her real estate cards to those asking for rezoning too?

The current city residents aint seeing the services they are supposed to get.

You honestly think we can annex tens of thousands of people in Middle Valley, East Brainered, Ooltewah and right out to the county line without raising city taxes to pay for all the resources they will need from city government.

There may one day be a time for growth but not during a recession. Things are just way to uncertain and unstable to be doing these kind of radical changes all at once. Both city and county govt. just spent the past year trying to find ways to make cuts and be more efficient, bigger, bloated, county wide government aint the answer.

May 2, 2009 at 12:48 p.m.
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