published Friday, May 25th, 2012

Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation fighters to stay vigilant

by Cliff Hightower
  • photo
    Kyle Holden, president of Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A group dedicated to fighting annexation by Chattanooga will not disband, but instead will take a "wait-and-see" approach to efforts by the city to extend its boundaries, the group's leader said Thursday.

Kyle Holden, president of Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation, said the city still could annex a handful of neighborhoods, including Hurricane Creek, Windstone and Emerald Valley.

"All they have to do is put it on the [City Council] agenda," he said.

Richard Beeland, spokesman for Mayor Ron Littlefield, said there are no immediate plans for annexation, but unforeseen events could always push the city to take the step.

"There's always the possibility," Beeland said.

Starting in August 2009, the city began taking in commercial and residential areas in Hixson, Lookout Valley, East Brainerd, Apison and Ooltewah. It was Chattanooga's largest annexation since the 1970s.

Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation filed a series of lawsuits, but over the past three years the plaintiffs peeled off one by one, settling their cases and becoming part of the city.

Ramsgate and some surrounding neighborhoods, the last of the disputed areas, settled with the city two weeks ago. Council members approved the annexation for the end of 2014.

The council was set to vote on annexing Hurricane Creek, Emerald Valley and Windstone as part of that 2009 growth spurt, but Littlefield stopped the process before any vote. He said he wanted Hamilton County government to join him in talks about metropolitan government.

Since then, there have been no substantive talks on metro government. The annexation push for the three neighborhoods has been dormant.

That's why Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation will continue to operate with a skeleton crew, Holden said.

"If it happens, we'll fight it," he said.

City Councilman Jack Benson represents District 4 on the eastern edge of the city, which would take in Hurricane Creek, Emerald Valley and Windstone if they were annexed.

Benson said he's heard no talk toward such a move, but he would support it, because the neighborhoods have created population density right next to Chattanooga's borders.

"I think we have to do it," he said. "They've urbanized themselves."

County Commissioner Larry Henry, who represents the same area, said if the city annexed the neighborhoods, installing sewers would be costly because of the hilly terrain. But he expects that annexation will take place someday.

"My personal feeling is that it's too cost prohibitive. That's why it's off their radar screen," he said. "I'm not real concerned about it right now."

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