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Anti-Annexation Group Sends Warning Letter To Pastors

posted November 15, 2011

Source: Friends of Hamilton, a non-profit anti-annexation group, has sent a letter via e-mail to pastors at nearly 30 churches in northeast Hamilton County “to warn them that they are being targeted for more burdensome taxes and fees.”

Chris Matthews, president, said, “We believe these churches and their members will be among the hardest to be hit if Chattanooga Mayor Littlefield is successful at changing urban growth boundaries, which will enable the city to annex larger portions of Ooltewah and Harrison.”

The letter states:

November 12, 2011

A Message to Pastors of Northeast Hamilton County Churches

Dear Pastors, I am writing you today about change coming to our area and how we need your help as leaders in the community.

In 2009, the City of Chattanooga annexed properties along Highway 58 in Harrison, including Bayside Baptist Church. State laws gave Bayside no voice in the annexation. As a result, the church saw its property taxes increase nearly 90% and faced stormwater fees of about $12,000 along with other costs.[i] Bayside is a large church that has significantly expanded in the past 20 years. Most churches in the northern part of Hamilton County aren’t as large and as able to deal with such added costs.

Now, the City of Chattanooga is attempting to annex areas in Ooltewah and Harrison, extending its reach from previous annexations as a result of VW, Amazon and other employers investing in our area. The City of Cleveland appears to be looking to annex faster-growing parts of Georgetown and Birchwood near its urban growth boundaries. Within the next few years, the state plans to build a bridge across the Tennessee River near Mahan Gap Road.[ii]

Economic growth is bringing more residents and urbanization pressures to northeastern Hamilton County. Incorporated cities look at the potential for further growth this area can bring and they want to claim those tax dollars for themselves. What we have seen from the recent Chattanooga annexations is that citizens and businesses being annexed have little say in the matter. They instantly see their tax rates go up and get charged for stormwater and other fees, yet they often don’t see the promised services for years.

The good news is that citizens of Ooltewah, Harrison, Georgetown and Birchwood don’t have to sit passively by and watch their churches, residential areas and businesses get gobbled up by established cities hungry for more tax dollars. There is another way.

Some business and community leaders in northern Hamilton County have created a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization called Friends Of Hamilton. Our mission is simple: to create the model city of Hamilton, with very limited infrastructure services required by the state and requested by its citizens. We believe that our people will be better served having their interests represented more locally instead of 23 miles away in Downtown Chattanooga. Our objective is to increase the quality of life, keep property taxes low and streamline government operations.

While state law will require this new city, like any city, to collect property taxes, we look to minimize government costs by tightly controlling what services the city would need to offer by contracting some to current providers. The City of Walden, for example, contracts with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department to provide police services. It also contracts other services out to other public and private entities. And its tax rates are among the lowest for cities in Hamilton County.

We aim to provide area citizens more responsive government while tightly controlling the purse strings. Our group leaders are business and community leaders, not politicians, so we have every incentive to live up to our organizational goals. The time to take action is NOW!

In order to do this, we need your help.

First, we need reliable volunteer leaders who can help us spearhead our petition canvassing efforts; people who can go to local events, public areas and businesses and get qualified residents to sign petitions.

Second, we need your donations. These donations help provide you with a more effective local voice. When you balance a nearly 90% property tax hike with annexation versus incorporating the new City of Hamilton, your donations can save you significant dollars later!

Finally, please tell your friends, family and neighbors about the website, and have them follow us for updates on Facebook or Twitter.

Our area is blessed by the quality of the people who live here, by its natural resources and by the economic growth that appears to be soon at hand. With your help and your prayers, we can have a greater voice in the future development of this portion of Hamilton County while more effectively responding to peoples needs.

The time is NOW!

Thank you.

Chris Matthews President Friends of Hamilton

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