published Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Chattanooga City Council denies Hixson Pike deannexation request

Chattanooga City Hall
Chattanooga City Hall
Meghan Brown
OTHER BUSINESS

• City Council also voted to award Hurst Excavating a $1.1 million contract for Pineville Road Sewer Basin improvements, required under the federal wastewater consent decree.

• City Council also voted for the city to accept a grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation to build bike lanes on Broad Street from M.L. King Boulevard to Aquarium Way and another lane from West 55th Street to St. Elmo Avenue. The amount hasn't been determined and the city will be required to pay 5 percent of the cost.

• City Council authorized the Fire Department to apply for a $50,250 FEMA grant, with the city matching the grant for $5,000.

• The City Council also authorized the mayor to appoint members to multiple boards including the C-7 board, General Pension Board, Board of Plumbing Examiners, Chattanooga Airport Authority and the Beer and Wrecker Board.

• City Council also authorized the Economic and Community Development Department to enter contracts with various neighborhood organizations for city projects and initiatives. The contracts are not to exceed $50,000.

Hixson Pike residents left the Chattanooga City Council angry Tuesday night after being on the losing side of a 5-4 split vote to prevent their annexation.

Councilman Ken Smith introduced the ordinance that would have reversed a 2009 decision to annex the one-square mile of neighborhood about 530 houses within multiple subdivisions along Hixson Pike.

Several neighborhood association presidents told the council nearly 100 percent of the homeowners signed a petition to decline annexation by the city, which takes effect Dec. 31.

West Point Neighborhood Association President Josh Henry said his added property tax bill next year will be $1,900 tacked onto what he already pays to the county.

"We don't get much more than garbage services [for this expense,]" Henry told the council.

Another resident called the annexation, "Taxation without representation" and "no different than a hostile takeover."

The city attorney's office asked the council to vote against the ordinance. City Attorney Phil Noblett explained this request contradicts an agreement that was born out of two years of litigation.

In 2009, the area between Hixson Pike and Middle Valley Road was part of multiple areas that former Mayor Ron Littlefield started the process to annex. Other areas were portions of Lookout Mountain, a stretch of Highway 58 and sections of Apison Pike and Ooltewah.

Residents near Hixson Pike sued the city and for two years fought not to be included in the city limits.

In 2012, the city and neighborhood homeowners settled, Noblett told the council Tuesday. The agreement gave homeowners until the end of this year to become a part of the city and they wouldn't be required to pay property tax until November 2014.

That's why Smith's ordinance requested deannexation.

Councilman Yusuf Hakeem, who voted against the ordinance, said he was unsettled at voting against an agreement, and it would set a bad precedent for the city. He added that those residents already receive benefits living so close to the city limits.

Those for the ordinance quibbled over how much money it would cost the city to add these residents and if it will outweigh the revenue. Smith said the tax base will be nearly $1 million in revenue.

Noblett couldn't provide the council with a total estimated cost, but he did present figures given to the previous City Council in 2009.

He said a study from 2009 revealed multiple expenses such as $118,831 for road repairs, $35,000 for water pipes, $88,000 for fire hydrants and $940,000 for fire operations.

There was also an original estimate of $2.45 million for three years of sewer capital expenses. But Noblett told the council that estimate has significantly decreased to $700,860.

Residents argued the expense would be higher.

When it came time to vote, Councilmen Chris Anderson, Russell Gilbert, Moses Freeman and Hakeem and Councilwoman Carol Berz voted against the ordinance. Councilmen Chip Henderson, Larry Grohn, Jerry Mitchell and Smith voted for it.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at 423-757-6659 or jlukachick@timesfreepress.com.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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