published Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Finish line on horizon in Chattanooga annexation case

by Cliff Hightower
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    Kyle Holden, president of Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation
    Photo by Tim Barber

The final battle over Chattanooga's annexation effort, which started more than two years ago, finally will go to court on June 19.

"It's our second stand," said Kyle Holden, president of Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation. "I wouldn't necessarily say it's a last stand."

City Attorney Mike McMahan said last week that his arguments to the court on why the city should be able to annex the last two large communities -- Ramsgate and Big Ridge -- still fighting annexation will be simple and to the point.

"Basically, the people are already surrounded by the city," he said. "Why not? They are functionally a part of Chattanooga."

Bill Reesor, a spokesman for Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation, said that group's position in court also will be simple.

"They city has no grounds to annex except for revenue," he said. "And you can't annex for money."

Ramsgate is in the Middle Valley/Hixson area. Big Ridge is across Chickamauga Lake from Harrison, a little more than two miles from Ramsgate.

Mayor Ron Littlefield started the process in August 2009, eventually taking in Cummings Cove in Lookout Valley; portions of Lookout Mountain and Morris Hill Road near East Brainerd; a stretch of Highway 58; and sections of Apison Pike and Ooltewah in eastern Hamilton County. To the north, the city targeted Ramsgate and Big Ridge.

Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation immediately formed to fight the annexations and hired Knoxville attorney David Buuck, a known annexation fighter. The group then found plaintiffs and began filing lawsuits to stop annexations.

Since then, plaintiffs one by one have settled with Chattanooga and agreed to be annexed. Several parcels came in Dec. 31, 2011, and more are scheduled to be annexed on Dec. 31 this year.

Reesor said many people in Ramsgate and Big Ridge have donated to the cause, and the annexation fighters are ready to go to war in the courtroom.

"We have a large pot of money prepared for this fight," he said.

Holden said he is prepared for the group's second shot in court. The last time they went to court was in 2009, when the anti-annexation group won a lawsuit to get access to city public records, he noted.

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