published Friday, August 24th, 2012

Annexation proceeds in Jasper

Billy Simpson, the mayor of Jasper, Tennessee
Billy Simpson, the mayor of Jasper, Tennessee
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

JASPER, Tenn. — The plan for Jasper to annex 35 parcels of land in an area between Highway 41 and Interstate 24's exit 158 is nearing its conclusion.

Last week, City Attorney Mark Raines said all the affected property owners have been notified through certified mail about the proposed annexation.

Officials said only one of the affected property owners has approached them with "concerns."

"It was nothing derogatory," Jasper Mayor Billy Simpson said. "He was just asking questions, and there was nothing really that we couldn't handle. It was more or less just a bunch of questions and not really any opposition."

Raines said he's heard whispers of concern about property owners being taxed at the commercial rate, but he thinks those fears "may be minimal."

"All of the residential areas out there will be grandfathered in under this annexation plan," he said. "The only time a commercial rate would be incurred is if the use [of the residential property] changes [to commercial]."

Officials said they expect the annexation to be finalized in early 2013, but if it occurred somehow before the end of the year, city taxes would be prorated.

"Once [the annexation] is finalized and we've got it all worked out, then the taxes will begin," Raines said. "[The property owners] wouldn't pay the whole year of taxes if it happened in the month of December."

The city was recently awarded a $500,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant to extend the sewer line to the proposed annexation area, but that comes with a downside, officials said.

"The intent of the planning commission and the [Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen] was to focus on the commercial property, and the grant funds can only be used for extension to commercial business," Raines said. "We are limited to who we can provide the [sewer] service, initially, by the terms of that grant."

Eventually, Raines said, the sewer line will be extended to those nearby residential areas, but the system must be put into place first and the town must be "out from under those provisions and restrictions" of the grant before that can happen.

Property owners will have one last chance to voice any concerns about the plan at a public hearing on September 10 at 6 p.m. CDT before the board's regular monthly meeting.

That meeting will also include a second reading on the annexation ordinance, officials said.

After that, the final legal procedure for the city will be officially notifying Marion County Mayor John Graham of Jasper's intent to annex the area, Raines said.

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