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New City Proposed To Halt Chattanooga Annexation

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

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.

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