By Rachel Sauls
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Another election has come and gone without the incorporation of the city of Hamilton on the ballot, but leaders in the effort aren’t disheartened.
“We’re going to keep pushing until we have all the valid signatures,” said Friends of Hamilton spokesperson Brendan Jennings.
For more than a year the group has been working through the legal process of incorporating a new city called Hamilton that potentially will extend from Mahan Gap Road north toward Highway 60 and from the Bradley County line south to the Tennessee River. So far, the biggest hang-up in the process has been the requirement of collecting valid signatures from one-third of the registered voters living within the potential new city’s boundaries.
“We have over 2,000 signatures but only roughly half are valid,” said Jennings. “Right now we have calls going out to those with valid signatures encouraging them to tell their friends and neighbors, and we also have a second call going out to those who need to fix their signatures.”
During the signature vetting process, the group has found that many of the people who signed the petition live within the city’s potential limits but are not registered voters, he explained.
“We’re going to continue to push forward,” Jennings said. “Certainly we’d like to have it done this year.”
One of the main reasons behind the Friends of Hamilton’s incorporation effort is the city of Chattanooga’s continued annexation of county property, especially over the last few years. The group recently released an annexation map that shows Chattanooga’s historic annexations from 1838 through the present.
More recent annexations show what the group describes as “cherry picking” properties to bring certain areas into the city primarily because of the tax dollars associated with each property. Jennings said the group feels like continued annexation is imminent regardless of who the city’s mayor will be for the next four years. Outgoing Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield expressed interest last year in reopening the urban growth boundaries in the county that would likely make more land annexable for the city.
“We’re trying to get the word out to the residents that whether or not they want annexation, annexation is coming to them,” Jennings said.