published Monday, May 20th, 2013

Charleston annexation falls short of deadline

CHARLESTON, Tenn. — Charleston's proposal to incorporate 272 Bradley County residents, most located in the Maple Crest subdivision and on Mustang Drive, has been stopped short.

Finalization of the plan -- which received its second public hearing in April and would have become official this month -- fell 15 days after the imposition of a state-imposed moratorium on annexations achieved through ordinance, Charleston Mayor Walter Goode said recently.

Goode attributed unexpected delays in the Municipal Technical Advisory Service review process as a contributing factor to the missed deadline for the incorporation plans, which have been in the works for 18 months.

"If we had gotten started on ours and not been set back a couple of times from MTAS, I believe that ours would have been through," Goode said. "Two times we had to send it back with minor adjustments, and each time it was a month or longer before we got correspondence back."

Proposed state legislation deals with the elimination of annexations by ordinance and instead allowing annexations to occur only by residents' requests. The moratorium placed on ordinance-driven annexations will last until May 15, 2015.

"According to [state correspondence] a citizen has a right to say whether he wants to be annexed into Charleston or into Cleveland or whatever municipality that's closest to him," Goode said. "To me, I'm thinking that's the end of annexation as we know it unless there's something we have they're not receiving as a county resident."

In the meantime, options are limited for finalizing the current annexation process, Goode said.

A successful petition probably would require only 51 percent of the 272 targeted residents, City Manager Caroline Geren said. However, she said she wished to get clarification from the technical advisory service to be certain.

Officials also were unsure if one petition would be acceptable or if Mustang Drive and the Maple Crest subdivision each would require a petition.

Another possibility would involve petitioning the Bradley County Commission, but Goode said he was not sure if Charleston would try to do that.

The objective of the annexation -- repeatedly stated by Goode -- was not to boost tax revenues, but to boost Charleston's population. If the annexation had been successful, the city's population was estimated to reach within 40 people of 1,000 residents, a benchmark for qualifying for more federal grants.

"We're at a standstill right now," Goode said.

In other business, Charleston officials still are seeking an appointee to the city commission position recently vacated by Larry Anderson. Two months ago, Anderson abruptly announced his resignation. He later said he was tired of issues "backfiring" on commissioners.

Geren said the appointee would serve for the first two years of Anderson's four-year term. The commissioner position will be put on the ballot in 2014, with the winner fulfilling the last two years of the term.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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