published Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Annexation helps cities manage growth, expert says


by Cliff Hightower
  • photo
    Dr. Catharine Ross, an author and urban planner, visits Chattanooga for a meeting of the Tennessee Chapter of the American Planning Association.
Audio clip

Dr. Catherine Ross

An expert on urban planning said Friday that annexation is a common tool of cities to help manage current and future growth.

Dr. Catherine Ross, director of Georgia Tech's Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development and author of the book "Megaregions: Planning for Global Competitiveness," was in Chattanooga Friday speaking to the Tennessee chapter of the American Planning Association.

Q: The city is conducting annexation, is this a good strategy for handling future growth?

A: Absolutely. In many instances, historically, (annexation) is way the city or a place has decided how and where it's going to grow. Having the ability to annex gives it the position to plan for that growth and decide where certain kinds of services are going to be located, where certain types of industries are going to be located, how service delivery and supplies are going to be fashioned. They can chart what size square footage they're going to need, the character of the places that fit that. Annexation is seen as a strategy for a city to manage its growth.

Q: In this area, you have a lot of growth from Cleveland, Tenn., to North Georgia along the Interstate 75 corridor. How do you plan for that growth?

A: We don't have great tools for multijurisdictional planning, and Interstate 75 runs a long way. As it traverses these different areas and different communities, there are very different guidelines in regards to zoning, the communities' vision on what they want happening.

We don't have a good institution or set of planning tools to deal with that. We just don't. Tennessee plans to the end of Tennessee. Georgia plans to the end of Georgia. We don't have the ability to plan across borders. What happens is, it just sort of happens.

Traffic goes across borders. Air quality doesn't stay fixed, it moves. Water, natural resources, all traverse multiple jurisdictions and there is no planning ability to manage that.

Q: Does something need to be created to manage that?

A: I think it does. Either create something new or we give some of these jurisdictions with the power to plan across the borders or have joint planning. There's nowhere in the middle that people plan across the borders. We don't have the ability to plan jointly, and it happens jointly.

What if we had something that said, you share a common water source, you have to do joint planning? That's it. It's a radical idea. We don't do it.

Megaregions start small and grow big and then drill down to scalable. We could talk about Maglev and high-speed rail systems that traverse all the way down from Chattanooga to Atlanta, to something like how can the transit system in your city work with the transit system in my city because there are a number of common patterns we share.

We have to have strategies that cross borders if we're going to remain competitive in the global market.

Q: Are there other tools in the toolbox to plan for growth besides annexation?

A: There are many entities that have growth management policies that don't speak to annexation at all. You have a free hand on how you want to go forward. Clearly, the state of Tennessee made that decision with its growth boundaries act and the quid pro quo between the city and the community being annexed.

COMING MONDAY

Join an online chat at 11 a.m. Monday with Kyle Holden, president of the Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation. Mayor Ron Littlefield will present for an online chat immediately afterwards at 11:30 a.m.

PERSONAL GLANCE

* Name: Catherine Ross

* Age: 60

* Personal: Married 35 years; one son, one daughter

* Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio; lives in Atlanta

* Occupation: Director of Georgia Tech's Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development

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