Tennessee Code Annotated says a territory cannot be de-annexed if the following occurs:
• Ten percent of the registered voters within the area file a petition saying they do not want to be de-annexed.
• The petition is filed within 75 days following the final reading of the de-annexation ordinance.
• The majority of voters in the next general election vote against de-annexation.
Source: Tennessee Code
Susan Rich doesn't want to leave Chattanooga.
But Chattanooga wants to leave her.
More than a month ago, the Chattanooga City Council voted to de-annex her and other residents in the wealthy enclave atop Elder Mountain. But she'll have none of it -- she has taken the fight to City Hall and stopped the de-annexation.
"It's important to me," said Rich, a Chattanooga attorney. "I want to vote in the city."
Rich and 10 other residents atop Elder Mountain signed a petition to stop the de-annexation. City Attorney Mike McMahan said the de-annexation now will be a referendum on the August 2012 state primary and county general election ballot.
Elder Mountain residents will decide their own fate -- to stay in Chattanooga or not.
"There's only a handful of folks who live up there," McMahan said. "The people up there get to decide."
City officials first spoke in January of de-annexing the community.
The idea of de-annexation at first perplexed most residents. Only one said he wanted his house de-annexed.
But Mayor Ron Littlefield and McMahan told residents they didn't pay enough in property taxes to cover the cost of fire service and winter road salting. Also, many of the residents' property lies in Marion County, they said.
But questions remain on just who and how many people can vote when the referendum comes around next year.
Rich said she dove into voting records and found it hard to figure out just how many people atop the mountain are registered Chattanooga voters.
"I'd say the maximum amount of people who'd be voting on it would be 30," she said.
Charlotte Mullis-Morgan, Hamilton County elections administrator, said the election commission will check to see which of the Elder Mountain residents are in Chattanooga and which are in Marion County.
But other than that, the commission will put the question on the ballot and let the voters on Elder Mountain decide if they want to be in Chattanooga.
"The city's going to take care of it," she said. "We really have nothing to do with it."