Hamilton County committee eyes 20-year growth plan

Hamilton County committee eyes 20-year growth plan

October 20th, 2011 by Cliff Hightower and Ansley Haman in News

In this file photo Jim Coppinger speaks to reporters after taking the oath of office to become Hamilton County Mayor on Jan. 11, 2011.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said Wednesday he plans to convene a new committee to examine the county's 20-year growth plan boundaries at the request of Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield.

The county's Geographic Information Systems department is drafting a map from Littlefield's proposed boundaries that will allow residents and officials to see what areas the city mayor wants to fold into the city's potential growth plans.

In 2001, a committee created a carefully crafted growth boundaries plan in response to a state mandate.

At a commission meeting Wednesday, Coppinger asked commissioners to "hold down on their rhetoric and the negative comments" as the county moves forward with Chattanooga and nine other municipalities.

"It is a requirement by law that the county mayor reconvenes this committee," he said. "Any of [the municipalities] could have requested it."

Littlefield announced his plans to reopen the growth boundaries agreement in a letter to Coppinger on Oct. 11. Since then, the two mayors have exchanged several hand-delivered letters about the matter.

Coppinger requested more specifics about a proposed amendment on Monday; Littlefield responded Tuesday.

County Commissioner Fred Skillern said he wants to see some areas of Middle Valley folded into urban growth boundaries.

"I want it in Lakesite and Soddy-Daisy's growth area," he said before Wednesday's commission meeting.

Commissioners Chester Bankston and Mitch McClure said they had received numerous calls and emails from concerned residents in their districts.

A group -- Friends of Hamilton -- is working in Bankston's district to incorporate a new city, Hamilton, to defend against the possibility of Chattanooga annexation.

State Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said Wednesday he has been working with the group on the petitioning process needed to get a referendum for the proposed city on the November 2012 ballot. He said he has asked for an attorney general's opinion regarding the use of electronic media for petitioning.

But Watson said he has not gone so far as to look at all the rules for how the area can incorporate because it is a step-by-step procedure and the petition is the first step.

"At this point, it's just a local-level process," he said.

State Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said he had yet to hear from the city-forming group. He said he has no objections if they want to form their own municipality.

"I'd be willing to help them navigate the process if that's the route they want to take," he said.

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