The city's annexation plans were given the go-ahead Monday by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission, even as residents and some commissioners voiced displeasure in the move.
"We asked the city to come back with a better plan," said planning Commissioner Bobby Scott. "They have shown us the dignity to come back with the same piece of (expletive) they did before."
The commission voted 7-5 Monday to approve the second phase of the city's annexation plan. The commission voted 9-5 last month to approve the city's first phase of annexation plans.
The Chattanooga City Council will take up annexation for the first time tonight during a public hearing. The hearing will be the first of 10 over the next two months, with each looking at areas within the first and second phases of annexation.
On Monday, about 70 people filled the Hamilton County Commission chamber to voice their frustrations at the plans and to ask the planning commission to reject the proposal.
Planning Commission Chairman Dale Mabee told the audience before the meeting that the commission's obligation was only to vote on whether the city provided a "reasonable" plan of services such as police, fire and sewer.
"It's not in our authority to vote annexation up or down," Mr. Mabee said.
Gary Starnes, attorney for Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation, told commissioners that the city had not adequately fulfilled its obligation in presenting a plan. He said the city's plan lacked details about cost estimates for providing public services.
"You're obligated to look beyond a three-page summary," Mr. Starnes said.
On Friday, the anti-annexation group filed a lawsuit against the city, saying the city has not provided requested information about cost estimates for the annexation.
Staff Photo by Dan Henry Attorney Gary Starnes protests the second phase of Chattanooga's annexation plans during a Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission meeting on Monday.
Mr. Starnes told planners Monday that the group was "trying to get the records you should have."
During Monday's meeting, city Councilman Jack Benson, a member of the planning commission, said that sometimes every plan cannot be mapped out. He noted that, before he got married to his wife, he did not have to plan out his 54 years of marriage to his father-in-law.
"You were not required by law to have a plan," Mr. Starnes replied.
Annexation should take place for the benefit of the city, Mr. Benson said.
"It would be better for the future of this area and its vitality," he said.
Bill Reesor, a resident of the Windstone development, accused the city of not having the information in the first place.
"We don't have the numbers and you don't have them, either," he said.
Scott Bishop, a resident of Stonewall Farms, said he felt the information requested by Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation should have been "in a box, gift wrapped with a bow on it" and handed over to the citizens.
"You folks are about to vote on something you have no numbers on," Mr. Bishop told the planning commission.
Mayor Ron Littlefield responded to the criticism of the annexation plans by saying that city officials were complying with law.
"We're following the steps as required," Mr. Littlefield said.
In Business: Read about how the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency also approved a $100 million development off Interstate 75 near the Summit landfill.
The Chattanooga City Council will begin its first set of public hearings on annexation tonight after its regularly scheduled meeting; the first meeting will discuss the area around Cummings Cove.
* Areas along the side of Lookout Mountain
* Areas in north Hixson, specifically Stonewall Farms subdivision
* Areas in East Brainerd, specifically the Windstone and Hurricane Creek subdivisions
* A large swath of commercial area along Highway 58
Source: City of Chattanooga
HOW THEY VOTED
* Voting for: Mayor Ron Littlefield, Jack Benson, Jon Bell, Mary Eastman, Kenneth Jordan, Y.L. Coker and Don Moon.
* Voting against: Larry Henry, Mike Langley, Bobby Scott, Dan Wade, Tommy McDaniel
* Recusing himself: Vance Travis
* Not present: William Smith