Archive for October, 2011

Group proposes city of Hamilton

Written By: Rachel Sauls
Date: 10/26/11

Local grassroots organization Friends of Hamilton is standing behind its statement of intent to incorporate areas of Ooltewah, Georgetown and Birchfield into a new city called Hamilton.

According to group president Chris Matthews, the proposed new city would incorporate the area from Mahan Gap Road north toward Highway 60 and from the Bradley County line south to the Tennessee River. This area is home to 12,000 registered voters and an estimated 20,000 residents, he said.

“The original intent of incorporation is not to avoid annexation,” said Matthews. “We’ve been working on this for several months.”


The city of Hamilton announcement was previously planned for release in November, but Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield’s request to convene a committee that will address and possibly revise the urban growth boundaries throughout the county spurred The Friends of Hamilton to release their announcement ahead of schedule, said Matthews.

Group member and spokesperson Brendan Jennings said the incorporation of Hamilton is not a move against Littlefield.

“Anyone in his position might logically consider annexation,” he said. “Littlefield only has 13 to 14 more months in office but whoever is next will be influenced by the same factors, and we can’t afford to say it’s just Littlefield. We’re working to protect and ensure a voice for people who don’t have one now.”

Matthews said that the major impetus to incorporate Hamilton is to give residents in the northeastern part of the county control of decision making and tax money instead of leaving it up to Chattanooga City Hall 20 miles away.

“The major benefits of incorporation are localized planning and revenue staying in the area,” he said. “We want to bring the decision making to the area being affected.”


The first step in the process toward Hamilton’s incorporation is a petition supporting the incorporation that must be signed by one-third of the voters within the proposed city limits, said Jennings.

“We’re asking for petition signatures before we can get a true understanding,” he said. “The petition is more about getting voices heard and then eventually moving toward incorporation.”

If the petition is completed, a public hearing regarding a city charter and service plan will be held, the plan will be submitted to the election commission and then the city’s incorporation will be voted on in a special or general election, he said.

Assuming the process moves quickly and smoothly, Hamilton’s incorporation could be on the general election ballot in November 2012, said Matthews.


Upon incorporation, the city of Hamilton would be required by state law to levy taxes.

“If we are annexed by Chattanooga, we’re looking at a 90 percent property increase,” said Jennings. “The city of Hamilton taxes wouldn’t approach that.”

According to Matthews, the city of Hamilton would attempt to create a flat infrastructure and he said taxes would likely fall at 1.5 percent or less per $100 assessment on real and personal property. Based on the services already existing in the area, the major expenses coming from city of Hamilton taxes would be road maintenance and building costs, said Jennings.

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“Friends of Hamilton” Speed-Up Their Efforts to Incorporate

Date: 10/20/2011

Lawsuits have slowed down the plans to annex unincorporated areas like Ooltewah, Harrison and Birchwood.

Now, all the bickering between local leaders has spawned a new movement..

This one would create a new city to avoid the higher taxes.

But will it work?

Its really a novel idea. County residents who live the good like…..on some of the most beautiful land in the country….and who don’t pay city taxes…want to build a barrier to keep the city out. The new municipality would be called Hamilton, Tennessee. Entrepreneur Chris Mathews and some others residents came up with the idea a couple of years ago, but Mayor Littlefield’s insistence that annexation move ahead…pushed it ahead.

CHRIS MATHEWS, FRIENDS OF HAMILTON COUNTY “We want to have a much lower tax rate than the city of Chattanooga’s going to have, we’re looking at about 1 to 1 and a half percent is the estimate, just to cover operational services in the new city of Hamilton.”

But, veterans within city government, like councilman Jack Benson, have their doubts.

JACK BENSON, CITY COUNCIL MEMBER “Idealistically, it sounds pretty enticing, but practically, the cost of it would be out of this world.” CHRIS MATHEWS “Wwe’re hoping that once the city is incorporated, that we have additional communities that have already said they want to be self-annexed into the new community.”

JACK BENSON “The taxes they would have to pay to start an infrastructure..from square one, would be tremendous.” UTC professor Brendan Jennings, thinks the idea of creating a whole new city, with lower taxes

, makes perfect sense. BRENDAN JENNINGS, FRIENDS OF HAMILTON COUNTY “There are residents in different areas around Hixson and different parts of the city that were previously annexed and haven’t seen any appreciable benefits from that annexation.”

“Friends of Hamilton” are holding weekly meetings to organize the campaign.

In order for the idea to work, Friends of Hamilton are looking to start a petition campaign.

With a third of the residents in the effected area signing up, the matter could be placed on the November 2012 ballot.

Categories: News

New City Proposed To Halt Chattanooga Annexation

By John Pless
10/18/2011 6:25 PM

Hamilton Co. Annexation Battle Heating Up
A serious effort is underway to create a new city within Hamilton County with the primary goal of stopping Chattanooga’s latest plans to annex farther north.

At stake is the future of eastern Hamilton County. The areas around Ooltewah, Harrison, Georgetown and Birchwood are expected to explode with growth in the coming years. The big question is will the area become part of Chattanooga, a new “City of Hamilton” or something else?

Tuesday afternoon Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield showed us the very latest boundaries he envisions for the city a decade or two down the road. The new boundaries go well beyond the growth boundaries all governments in Hamilton County agreed to ten years ago.

Instead of stopping at Hunter Road and Highway 58, Mayor Littlefield proposes a northern city limit at Mahan Gap Road and areas south of Birchwood Pike.

“We need to be mapping out a new boundary for where urban services will be located,” Mayor Littlefield said.

It just so happens that the latest growth boundaries drawn by the Mayor are the same lines for the southern border of an all-new “City of Hamilton.”

Friends of Hamilton spokesperson Brendan Jennings said a primary goal is “to create a new city that will maintain the character that currently exists.”

Friends of Hamilton envisions a new city extending from the Harrison Community north to Birchwood and east toward Georgetown. The first phase, if successful, would include areas between Mahan Gap Road, the Tennessee River and the borders with Bradley and Meigs counties. The second phase, if successful, would include areas south of Mahan Gap Road to the current Chattanooga city limits.

The areas within the proposed city are mostly rural with farms, estates and some new subdivisions.

Forming a new city will require signatures from at least a third of registered voters in the area on a petition calling for a referendum on the November 2012 ballot. Tennessee state law requires other challenges to be met before a city can form.

“There hasn’t been a city that’s been incorporated in Tennessee in ten years so the powers-that-be make it very difficult, so we understand we have a very high mountain to climb,” Jennings said.

But not all people in the Birchwood community we spoke with welcome the idea of a “City of Hamilton.”

Lois McDowell said “I would not actually want to see a city here in this area, I live a mile and a half away.”

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, who’s engaged in a volley of letters with Mayor Littlefield about urban growth boundaries, said county government is keeping a close eye on the movement to create a new city.

“If it’s the will of the people in that particular area, that they want to form a new municipality, then we will abide by their wishes,” Mayor Coppinger said.

Mayor Littlefield is asking all mayors in Hamilton County to meet by mid-December to talk about the best ways to handle the growth expected in eastern Hamilton County.

“The best thing I can do, as a legacy to leave for the next Mayor’s administration, or perhaps the next two Mayors, is to go ahead and settle this question of growth boundaries,” Mayor Littlefield said.

Categories: News

City of Hamilton idea surfaces from city, county spat

Date: 10/18/11
by Ansley Haman
by Cliff Hightower

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield will deliver a detailed urban growth plan to Hamilton County today, but a grass-roots group upped the ante Monday by saying it will form its own city to make sure it is not included in those plans.

The proposed city of Hamilton would include areas of Ooltewah, Harrison, Georgetown and Birchwood.

Littlefield said he wants to amend the urban growth boundaries to expand the city’s borders northward along Interstate 75 toward Bradley County, taking in parts of Ooltewah and also including the Harrison and Bartlebaugh communities. The city also would consider bringing Middle Valley into the boundaries, he said.

Chris Matthews, president of the grass-roots group — which calls itself Friends of Hamilton — said he and others have studied chartering their own city and have been talking to local and state representatives about the idea. They are planning a petition drive to place the incorporation issue on the November 2012 ballot.

“We feel like we have the components to move this forward,” Matthews said.

Their announcement came after County Mayor Jim Coppinger responded to a city request to revisit urban growth boundaries set in 2001. Coppinger asked Littlefield for more specific information about what he wants to do.

After receiving Coppinger’s letter, Littlefield said he would hand-deliver a response to the county about amending the county’s urban growth boundary.

“We are happy to oblige,” Littlefield said.


Over the past week, the city and the county have exchanged a series of hand-delivered letters about reopening discussion on urban growth boundaries. Littlefield began the exchange on Oct. 11, saying he wanted the county’s urban growth boundary committee to reconvene or a new one be appointed within 60 days.

The county responded Monday, citing state law that requires more information to be submitted to the county before a committee can be convened.

“I fail to see any specific amendment[s] that you are proposing,” Coppinger wrote to Littlefield.

Today’s letter from Littlefield will be the third volley in the exchange. He said he purposely was vague in his first letter.

“We were trying not to presuppose what other cities would do,” Littlefield said. “But since the county raised the question, I’ll be happy to answer.”

The time is ripe to look at growth within the county after the startup of Volkswagen’s plant and growth around that area, Littlefield said.

The 60-day timeline for convening the committee should start today when the county gets his second letter, he said. He also wants the committee to examine coming up with a more centralized board for water, stormwater and sewer services.


Friends of Hamilton County wants Hamilton’s boundaries to roughly stretch west to east from the Tennessee River to Bradley County and be bounded by state Route 60 to the north. The southern boundary would be around Mahan Gap Road, according to a map on the group’s website,

The group first started talking about the idea “a couple of months ago,” Matthews said, and decided to move forward with their plan after Littlefield asked to reopen growth boundary talks.

Upon hearing about the proposed incorporation, Littlefield said Monday that those types of conversations need to be taking place within an urban growth boundary committee. The only thing residents should know, he said, is incorporation also means they must provide services such as police and fire.

“I’m not surprised or bothered they would propose this,” he said.

County Commissioner Chester Bankston, whose district includes the proposed incorporation areas, said he has met with Matthews about the incorporation.

“They’re going to pursue it and see how far they can get with it,” Bankston said. “If the people are for it and it’s a good thing, I’m behind it.”

Group members realize incorporation would necessitate property tax collection under state law, Matthews said, but residents would pay what he said would be a much lower tax rate in order to avoid paying Chattanooga property taxes after being annexed.

The group also understands that being placed in the urban growth boundary does not automatically mean they will be annexed, Matthews said, but he thinks residents are willing to incorporate now instead of being annexed years down the road.

“Twenty years down the road, we may not have an option,” he said.

Matthews said the group initially thought of the town’s name as Ooltewah, but as more communities in the area joined, the group decided it should come up with a more suitable name.

Residents live in Hamilton County and are proud to live here, Matthews said, so the name pays tribute to that.

Categories: News

Mayor Ron Littlefield lays claim to land around three cities Chattanooga may want to annex

Date: 10/18/11
by Ansley Haman
by Cliff Hightower

Chattanooga responded Tuesday to a request for more information about its urban growth boundary plans by detailing a wide swath of land around three cities it could potentially want to annex in the future.

Mayor Ron Littlefield drafted the letter Tuesday and sent it to the county.

The five-paragraph letter simply states Chattanooga’s proposed plans for potential growth boundaries. They include areas around Lakesite, Soddy-Daisy and Collegedale. The lands unclaimed by any of these three cities, the letter states.

“Thank you for your attention on this matter,” Littlefield wrote. “I look forward to working with you and other officials of local government to take full advantage of this new season of growth and development.”

Mayor Jim Coppinger declined to comment Tuesday, saying he wanted a chance to review the letter.

He said a special assistant to Littlefield dropped off the letter late Tuesday evening to county Chief of Staff Mike Compton.

Littlefield triggered an exchange of letters last week when he sent a letter to the county asking that the urban growth boundaries for all cities within Hamilton County be reopened and reexamined. The existing boundaries were set in 2001 after a meticulous two-year process.

But the county responded that it needed more information from the city regarding its growth boundary plans. Littefield’s letter Tuesday was a response to that request.

County Commission Chairman Larry Henry said he hasn’t seen the letter yet, but he’s received calls from residents.

Is the new city of Hamilton a good idea?
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“The people who are living in my district who are on the radar screen to be annexed, are adamantly against it,” Henry said. “Sewer is the big issue. They’re going to pay the sewer tax without the sewer. They know they’re not going to get anything out of the city of Chattanooga.

“They don’t have a real big problem with paying the taxes if they’re going to get the service for it,” Henry said.

The fears of possible future annexation led to one group — — to send a news release out on Monday that they wanted to form their own city of Hamilton, Tenn., on the northeastern portion of the county.

Littlefield said talks like this are exactly what he thinks needs to happen within the community when discussing the urban growth boundaries. He has said he wants to look at the urban growth boundaries because of enormous potential for growth around Enterprise South from Volkswagen and Amazon.

City Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said Tuesday night council members had not received a copy of the letter.

She said she would prefer a face-to-face conversation rather than a letter announcing a unilateral plan. She said the exchanges going on right now make her leery about what could happen now if a meeting takes place.

“You’re already going to have people coming there with preconceived notions and maybe some opposing views,” she said.

She also said she also worried about city and county relations at this point.

“I’m concerned both governments continue to work in silos,” she said.

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Ooltewah Group May Form New City In Wake Of Littlefield Growth Aims

posted October 17, 2011

A group of Ooltewah residents is discussing starting a new city in the wake of a new proposal to reopen the Urban Growth Plan.

Officials said, “With the recent decision by Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield to amend the county’s urban growth plan, it’s apparent that residents of unincorporated areas in Ooltewah north to the county line will have to make some choices soon. It’s likely many parts of currently unincorporated areas will not remain unincorporated for long.

“In the face of uninvited encroachment from Chattanooga, Ooltewah area residents have a decision to make. Will they sit back and be shut out of the decision-making process while Chattanooga’s mayor and City Council annexes their property, driving up property tax rates nearly 90 percent and adding on other city taxes and service fees without seeing any appreciable differences or improvements in government services?

“Or will these same Ooltewah residents proactively support incorporation of a new city that will enable them to make decisions on what is best for their own community?”

Ooltewah community leaders said they are organizing a petition drive to incorporate a new city of Hamilton, which will include suburban areas within Ooltewah, Georgetown and Birchwood.

These leaders have coalesced into an organization called

The drive is targeting the incorporation issue for the November 2012 general election.

A majority of the Hamilton County Commission will need to support the incorporation before it can appear on the ballot.

“We want to give citizens of Ooltewah a voice in their future,” said president Chris Matthews. “Mayor Littlefield won’t.”

Longtime Ooltewah resident Stan Burton said, “The timing for this initiative is perfect. With Mayor Littlefield’s recent request to amend the urban growth plan, I believe it is obvious that the Harrison, Ooltewah, and Georgetown areas of Hamilton County will soon be annexed. The citizens of the area now have a choice; the City of Chattanooga will not be the only option. This is an exciting opportunity for area citizens to determine the future of our local government.”

Other organizations supporting this effort include Ooltewah Citizens for Responsible Growth and Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation. Residents in Harrison, Birchwood, Georgetown and other nearby communities are also involved in this effort, it was stated.

For more information on this issue, go to

Categories: News

Your Voice

October 17, 2011 2 comments

This area is dedicated to feedback from the community on thoughts of incorporation, annexation and growth plans. Please let us know what services and ideas for the new city and the community where you live.

Categories: General

Hamilton County plans response to Littlefield’s growth letter

Date: 10/16/11
by Ansley Haman
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.

Categories: News

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield calls for amendment to growth plan

Date: 10/12/11

by Cliff Hightower

Mayor Ron Littlefield said Tuesday he would like to revisit the county’s urban growth plan to allow expansion of areas municipalities now can annex.

“We’re already looking at bumping up against the limits in some areas,” Littlefield said Tuesday afternoon.

He said he personally delivered a letter to County Mayor Jim Coppinger Tuesday, and a city representative also delivered letters to eight of the other nine municipalities in Hamilton County. Ridgedale was not included.

The mayor’s letter acts as a “trigger” for either the original 2001 committee that established the urban growth boundaries to reconvene or for a new committee to be established.

Coppinger, reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, said he did not have much reaction since he had only seen the letter that day.

“We’re evaluating the letter and we will follow what the law requires,” Coppinger said.

The county and city governments set up the urban growth boundary in 2001 after the Tennessee General Assembly passed a law requiring it in the late 1990s. The boundaries were set up as an attempt for cities to have planned growth areas in which they could annex with limited controversy.

Two years ago, the city began annexing swaths of land within its own growth boundaries. A grass-roots organization, Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation, has filed lawsuits against the city to prevent some of those annexations.

Littlefield states in his letter that several factors have happened in the last 10 years that make it essential for the county and its municipalities to revisit the urban growth boundary — the biggest being the arrival of Volkswagen.

He said the county has 60 days to put the committee together.

“If we move quickly, we should be able to have an initial organizational meeting before the end of the year with a goal of completing the work before the end of June 2012,” he states in the letter.

Tennessee Code Annotated said the committee would comprise representatives of the county, all cities, the Board of Education, utility systems and the Chamber of Commerce.

Littlefield said he thought the current growth boundaries are a “little conservative.” He said there are gaps between Chattanooga and Soddy-Daisy, as well as Chattanooga and Collegedale that should be closed.

He said based upon state law since he has asked that the urban growth boundary be looked at, it must be done.

“I don’t read anything as an option of them not doing it,” he said.

Categories: News