The Scenic City can avoid the problems Atlanta has had with rapid growth if officials follow the city's annexation plan, Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said Monday evening.
"Atlanta could have done better if they planned their growth," Mr. Littlefield said in remarks to the Chattanooga Real Estate Investors Association. "Now it's choking on its own growth."
Mr. Littlefield announced in his April inauguration speech that he plans to annex out to Chattanooga's growth boundary. Since then, he has fielded criticism from residents of areas that could be annexed, as well as Hamilton County commissioners who represent those areas and County Mayor Claude Ramsey.
Commissioner John Allen Brooks sent a letter to members of the City Council last month calling the annexation "ill-conceived and ill-timed."
Mr. Littlefield challenged that statement in his remarks to a crowd of a few dozen at Asia Buffet on Lee Highway. He said the annexation plan was conceived nearly 10 years ago and that it recommends the annexation take place between March 2006 and March 2011.
"We're really in it to secure the future of this community," he said.
Commissioner Bill Hullander, a participant in the negotiations that led to the 2001 growth plan, agreed that the annexation proposal does fall under the growth plan's timetable. But, he said, the officials that drafted the plan didn't predict the ongoing economic downturn.
"It's a bad time to be doubling people's taxes on their property," he said.
Mr. Hullander also said that citizens who live outside the city limits are happy with the services they get.
"We've got good fire protection," he said. "We've got good police protection."
Mr. Littlefield argued that the annexation is needed so the city can bring "urban services" to the areas within the growth boundary. He said the city's fire department helped attract Volkswagen, which is building an auto assembly plant at Enterprise South industrial park.
"Are we going to have the kind services that induce things like Volkswagen to happen in the future?" he asked. "We are."