Chattanooga City Council not yet sold on annexation

Chattanooga City Council not yet sold on annexation

July 5th, 2009 by Cliff Hightower in Politics Local

Some City Council members are not buying into Mayor Ron Littlefield's plans for annexation just yet, saying details and explanation are scant.

"He might be a visionary, but it's not a vision unless you explain it," Councilman Russell Gilbert said.

Several council members said they still are awaiting feedback from the mayor's office on why he wants to extend the city limits and precisely how the city benefits from annexing all of the property within its designated urban growth boundary.

For his part, the mayor backed off statements he has made about plans to annex all of the available land.

"By 'all of it,' I mean everything that makes sense," he said. "If we can't serve the area, we don't need to take them in."

The city now is looking at annexing those areas that already have sewer and good water connections and therefore would not cost the taxpayers money to bring into the city. Mr. Littlefield said the plan is to annex parcels at a time, not annex the entire territory at once.

He asked for patience as his staff continues to develop a cost-benefit analysis of his proposal.

"It will be discussed in great detail," he said. "There will be no big surprises."

The first annexations could possibly come this year. Some City Council members said among the first parcels could be areas around Cummings Cove in Lookout Valley.

A survey of council members showed five undecided on annexation, two against and two in support. Most said they are reserving judgment until they get more details, but said their decision would depend on which parcels are under consideration.

"It's not going to come before us as one fell swoop," said Councilman Peter Murphy. "It's going to be in chunks."

Councilwoman Deborah Scott said she is undecided.

"I can't give an opinion if all of them are good, some of them are good or half of them are good," she said.

Councilman Manny Rico said he would support annexation because the plan was hammered out a decade ago among municipal governments.

"It's something that was planned 10 years ago, and if we're going to do it, we should do it now," he said.

Councilman Andraé McGary said council members are being cautious because so much is at stake, such as the costs of providing water and sewer services and police and fire protection.

"Everyone wants to make the best financial decision," he said.