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Collegedale Annexes 22 Properties as Citizens Protest

22 Properties Annexed Into Collegedale; Affected Landowners Confront Commission

Tuesday, May 08, 2012 – by Sarah Ruf

A large wave of annexations in the name of future development is sweeping through Collegedale, with another wave on its way soon.

And some of the city’s newest residents are upset about it.Three families protested the annexation of their properties into Collegedale during a commission meeting Monday night. Commissioners stamped their approval on annexing 22 parcels of land in different locations around town.

One of those parcels included Don Chastain’s three homes and a business on 155 acres at 10020 Lee Highway at the corner of the railroad tracks at the beginning of Edgemon Road.

“I think you know how I feel about being annexed, I just want to make it official,” Mr. Chastain told commissioners. He said later that taxes were the motivation for the city to annex his parcel.

Joel Richardson, property owner of 121 acres across the street from Mr. Chastain’s land, was also upset. A lawyer representing Mr. Richardson called the move to annex inappropriate, unreasonable, and illegal.

“(The land’s) very, very rough terrain to rezone for commercial use,” Roger Dickson told the commission.

“Doughnuts,” or county property surrounded by annexed city property, were the cause of much concern of both residents and city officials. One such doughnut would lie in the middle of Mr. Richardson’s annexed land. Currently, the land is not in use.

“I don’t think anybody can argue that (the city) can benefit from this property,” attorney Dickson said.

“You point out there are no advantages,” Commissioner Larry Hanson asked attorney Dickson, “Are there disadvantages?”

Besides a higher property tax rate, Mr. Richardson “would rather not be the city of Collegedale,” attorney Dickson said. Mr. Richardson said he would discuss with his lawyer the possibility of taking the city to court over the annexation.

Throughout the meeting, city officials mentioned future economic development as the reason for most of the annexations, as well as providing easier access for first responders. As far as illegal moves by Collegedale, City Attorney Sam Elliott said the proximity of land as part of the urban growth boundary is legal if a parcel is contiguous to other city property.

“On its face, the annexation is reasonable because it went through the urban growth process in 2001,” he said.

One resident moved to her house at the eastern city limit on Tallant Road to get away from city life 24 years ago. Now Nancy Reykdal said she and her husband have to give up county services and deal with a 27 percent property tax hike by becoming Collegedale residents. Ms. Reykdal expressed surprised that other land parcels were not annexed along her road.

“Talk about doughnut holes, this is a very large doughnut,” she said, referring to the 350 acres of county property she said rests between her house and the center of town.

“My husband and I question if city hall has any concern for our personal health, safety and welfare,” Ms. Reykdal said.

There was a moment of silence. Dr. Hanson asked city planner Kelly Martin to explain.

Mr. Martin talked about how the Reykdal property indeed rested on the city boundary. He added, “This is the first step in closing doughnut holes” to improve public services to “provide health, safety, and welfare” for citizens.

“Our neighbor will be in a doughnut hole that you are creating by annexing us,” Ms. Reykdal responded.

After hearing citizen comments, the four commissioners approved all zoning, plan of services, and tax map changes for the 22 land parcels. Commissioner Katie Lamb was not present.The decisions Monday night were the result of a long-term city plan by the planning commission,

Mayor John Turner said. “They (the citizens) were listened to, but we’ve been planning for three years,” he said. Previous commissioners have given original charter members of city special consideration concerning annexation, Mayor Turner said. “We’re protecting our future, especially from a commercial standpoint,” he said. “It was not a decision we took lightly.”

Mayor Turner said many residents ask for annexation into the city.

Even rough terrain such as the parcel Mr. Richardson owns could be developed commercially, Mayor Turner said, although no specific plans are in the works yet. “Bulldozers change a lot of things,” he said, pointing out Cameron Hill in Chattanooga as an example.

Other property annexed Monday night includes land near the Volkswagen exit and parcels close to the Ooltewah railroad crossing near Ooltewah First Baptist Church.

In his report, Vice Mayor Tim Johnson suggested the purchase of electronic tablets for the commissioners. The tablets would help handle all the paperwork coming through the pipeline for more annexations. “We got a ton more (paperwork) coming,” he said.

The planning commission will meet at city hall next Tuesday at 6 p.m.

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