published Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Hamilton County plans response to Littlefield’s growth letter

by Cliff Hightower


The city, county and other municipalities in Hamilton County adopted a Comprehensive Growth Plan in 2001 to comply with state law. That law allows the plan to be amended at the request of any municipal mayor or the county mayor, but the individual must give notice and has the “burden of proving the reasonableness and necessity of the proposed amendment.” Then, within 60 days, a committee must be established to consider the proposed amendment and make a recommendation to the county commission and municipal governing bodies.

Hamilton County leaders plan to respond this week to a request by Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield to revisit the city’s urban growth boundaries.

“We will be responding to his letter on Monday,” County Mayor Jim Coppinger said, declining to discuss the matter further until he delivers the county’s letter to Littlefield.

But one county commissioner blasted Littlefield, saying the city mayor could be overstepping his boundaries.

“Littlefield is the city of Chattanooga’s mayor and he loves to run the county,” said Commissioner Fred Skillern. “He loves to run everything, and you can quote me on that.”

Skillern, who represents District 1 in the northwest corner of the county, said any proposed amendment to the plan ultimately would need his body’s approval to become final. He’ll review the plan when it gets to the commission, he said.

On Tuesday, Littlefield hand-delivered a letter to Coppinger, seeking to revisit the urban growth plan, which sets up where and how far municipalities across the county can annex. He also sent the letter to eight of the nine other cities within the county.

Littlefield said Friday that other topics — beyond growth boundaries — could come up at any meetings between the city and the county. He said he also would like to talk about a public utility for sewer, water and stormwater.

“I’ve been calling it the Moccasin Bend Water Quality Authority,” he said.

The city’s sewer division could merge with the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority to deliver sewer countywide, Littlefield said. He also could see private water companies throughout the county signing up to the authority with an option to sell in the future if they wish, said Littlefield, who added that it is not unrealistic for a private water company to fall under a public authority governed by a board.

“We have public-private partnerships all the time,” he said.

One City Council member said she is not so sure about Littlefield’s idea. Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said the county and cities should revisit the growth plan because of changes over the last 10 years. The formation of a public utility could be too much, she said.

“That’s going to take a lot of discussion,” she said. “I would question a private entity signing on with a long-term idea of selling out to government.”

Private companies may be spooked by the mere mention of joining such an entity, Ladd said.

“I would question whether they would even come to the table,” she said.

Tennessee American Water officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Commission Chairman Larry Henry said his primary concern with the growth plan is making sure those in a potential annexation zone have an opportunity to vote on the matter.

“Any amendment needs to be left up to the people to make the choice in the areas being annexed,” Henry said.

Commissioner Mitch McClure, who represents Hixson, Lakesite and unincorporated areas in District 3, said he received a number of calls from residents opposed to the expansion of the urban growth boundaries.

“People have moved to the place that they wanted to live. If they wanted to live in the city, they’d move to the city,” McClure said. “I believe if they’re going to be considered for annexation, they should have the opportunity to vote and voice their opinion.”

Some mayors from surrounding cities, who also would have representatives on any urban growth boundary committee, said they are interested in the public utility aspect.

Signal Mountain Mayor Bill Lusk said he’s “all ears” about Littlefield’s plan. Though the project would be expensive, Lusk said it’s the right thing to do.

“I completely support the idea of a metro area sewer system,” he said.

Signal Mountain recently completed a study of its sewer system, which serves about one-third of town residents. To build it out to about another third would cost an estimated $10 million, Lusk said.

Walden Mayor Peter Hetzler said the bottom line would be the cost of joining. But he’s leery about the whole process, remembering what it took 10 years ago to get the first growth boundaries mapped out.

“If it’s anything like last time, it will be a lot of work,” he said.

about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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MasterChefLen said...

The best thing the the county leadership and the surrouning town's leadership can do is to stonewall Mayor Littlefield until his term ends ("run out the clock"). By the time the next elections, hopefully the citizens of Chattanooga will have good sense to boot the city council members from their positions, and elect a city mayor who is interested in working with the county as opposed to crowning himself or herself EMPEROR and overstepping authority and bounds.

October 16, 2011 at 12:32 p.m.
superdragtn said...

This article is making a big deal out of something insignificant at this point. Mayor Littlefield is simply initiating the process for amending the city's UGB as required by state law. The first step in that process is sending a letter to the county mayor. Eventually, the county commissioners and every incorporated community in the county will have the opportunity to examine and vote on the proposed changes. Again, its all in state law which the mayor is following.

October 16, 2011 at 3:02 p.m.
superdragtn said...

TCA 6-58-106 TCA 6-58-104 "Any time after the expiration of the initial three-year period, the mayor of any municipality in the county or the county mayor or county executive may propose an amendment to the growth plan by filing notice with the county mayor or county executive and with the mayor of each municipality in the county. Upon receipt of such notice, the county mayor or county executive shall take appropriate action to reconvene or reestablish the coordinating committee within sixty (60) days of the receipt of the notice. Except as provided for in this subdivision (d)(1), the procedures for amending the growth plan shall be the same as the procedures in this section for establishing the original plan."

October 16, 2011 at 10:10 p.m.
boatzone said...

I didn't get to vote and my property was annexed at 6518 Hixson Pike across from Ramsgate subdivision.

October 17, 2011 at 2:48 p.m.
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