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Chattanooga City Hall

The city of Chattanooga may soon have more to say over its economic future.

On Tuesday, City Council members unanimously approved a charter for a new Chattanooga Land Bank Authority, which will now be sent to the Tennessee secretary of state.

If approved, the charter will create a new, independent, five-person board which can buy and sell property more easily than the city.

City Economic and Community Development Director Donna Williams told council members the land bank could be a tool to help the city acquire residential, commercial and industrial properties. With the land bank, the city could make better plans about how to grow, she said.

"We have never as a government had a strategic approach to identifying property to acquire," Williams told council members. "This could help the city collect property for future development. By virtue of having a land bank authority, the city can act proactively to get ahead of the market."

The authority will be a 501(c)3 and not a part of city government. It will have no staff and no taxing authority and will not have the authority to acquire property through eminent domain, she said.

The land bank will merely be a holding company for properties the city wants to hang on to, she said.

Councilman Moses Freeman said he liked the idea, but he thought the City Council should have at least some say over who's on the authority's five-person board.

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In a voting meeting Tuesday, he suggested an amendment to get the council one appointment on the board, and it was passed.

The Chattanooga mayor will get two appointments, the county mayor one appointment, the City Council one appointment and the Chattanooga Housing Authority one as well.

Mayor Andy Berke needs two appointments because the land bank authority will be "one more responsibility for [Williams] and her people," and she reports to the mayor, said Berke Chief of Staff Travis McDonough.

Also during Tuesday's meeting, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution denouncing Senate Bill 123, which aims to prohibit municipalities from entering into any "agreement, contract, understanding, or practice, written or oral, implied or expressed" with a union, and to make existing agreements "illegal, void and of no legal effect," according to the bill.

Councilman Chris Anderson introduced the resolution last week, saying SB 123 could negatively impact the city's 3,000 employees, and cost taxpayers big.

He says the law could nullify recent revisions to the police and fire pension fund that he said would save taxpayers more than $227 million. And it could wipe out necessary changes to the fire and police pay plans.

Tuesday also marked the start of new, more-stringent zoning regulations for payday lenders, title pawns, check-cashers and other alternative financing businesses.

The council unanimously passed a second reading of an ordinance to bar such businesses from opening within 500 feet of residential areas or within a quarter-mile of other such businesses.

Passage of the bill ended a two-week moratorium on city building permits for such businesses.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com, @glbrogdoniv on Twitter or at 423-757-6481.

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