Archive for October 18, 2011

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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