City annexation trial delayed for months

City annexation trial delayed for months

November 16th, 2010 by Cliff Hightower in News

The first trial related to Chattanooga annexations has been delayed as lawyers continue taking depositions in the cases, officials said Monday.

City Attorney Mike McMahan said a scheduled December trial would be reset.

"We're absolutely not trying to delay," McMahan said.

One reason for the delay, he said, is that the plaintiffs in the case, Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation, have one attorney compared to the staff of attorneys the city has available.

But one member of Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation sees it differently.

"They have a method to their madness," said Bill Reesor, spokesman for the group. "They think they can run us out of money."

The city started annexing swaths of property a year ago in Hixson, Ooltewah, Lookout Valley and Apison, but Mayor Ron Littlefield stopped the annexations last November.

Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation then filed a series of lawsuits opposing the city's expansion plans.

McMahan said Monday that City Council members would talk today about one annexation area. The city plans on dropping plans to annex three parcels in areas near Apison.

WHAT'S NEXT

Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation will hold a meeting 7 p.m. on Nov. 22 at Westside Elementary School to give an update on the latest news concerning annexation.

He said not annexing these properties would create small donut holes within the annexed areas. But, he said, by law only those who opposed the annexation can legally not come into the city. So, the rest of the area would be within city borders by Jan. 1, 2011, he said.

McMahan said the city targeted areas around Apison, Ooltewah and state Highway 58 as priorities because they're close to Volkswagen. He said the city expects major changes in the area and wants some tighter zoning regulations.

He said the city would not use the same tactic to annex other areas.

"It's one thing to leave a doughnut hole," he said. "It's another thing to leave a patchwork."

Kyle Holden, president of Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation, said his group would meet next week to give members an update on that status of annexations. The first annexation court case, involving commercial property along Interstate 75, could come to trial by March, he said.