Annexation opponents mull legal challenge

Annexation opponents mull legal challenge

August 4th, 2009 in News


A plan of services drafted by the city attorney includes these areas for annexation in the first phase:

* Cummings Cove

* Ramsgate

* Ray Jo subdivision and area east of Morris Hill Road

* A swath of land between Interstate 75 and Enterprise South

* A huge swath between Collegedale and Chattanooga, including parts of Ooltewah

Source: City of Chattanooga

A local attorney told opponents of the city of Chattanooga's annexation plan Monday night that they may be able to file a legal challenge similar to one recently filed against a Signal Mountain annexation effort.

"We've already got one in the pipeline," attorney Gary Starnes told a crowd of hundreds packed into a gymnasium and lined up out the gym doors at Westview Elementary School in East Brainerd. "It's not insurmountable."

Richard Beeland, spokesman for Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, said city officials expected opposition.

Staff Photo by Margaret Fenton Karen Gruenewald asks a question of several Hamilton County leaders gathered to address hundreds of local residents during a Monday night meeting at Westview Elementary in East Brainerd. The panel discussed the benefits and drawbacks of being annexed by the City of Chattanooga and offered potential courses of action.

Staff Photo by Margaret Fenton Karen Gruenewald asks a...

"We knew there were going to be challenges to any of this," he said.

Mr. Beeland emphasized that the annexation plan falls under the urban growth boundaries set in a 2001 agreement signed by officials of Hamilton County and the cities within it.

Mr. Starnes and a group of residents filed a lawsuit against Signal Mountain in December over the annexation of two upscale subdivisions. That suit has halted the annexation effort there.

The Signal lawsuit challenges the urban growth plan and claims that the town's annexation plan does not include adequate services. Mr. Starnes said residents annexed into Chattanooga could file a similar lawsuit if the City Council approves an annexation plan.

Mr. Starnes went on to say that some areas that could be annexed may not get sewers, despite the fact that the 2001 countywide urban growth plan requires the city provide them within three years.

He said that the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority wouldn't have to install sewers if it didn't cede the annexed territory to the city within 30 days.

City Attorney Mike McMahan could not be reached for comment Monday night, but Mr. Beeland called the claim a scare tactic that was "whipping them up into a frenzy."

Wastewater authority Chairman Phil Smartt, who was present at Monday's meeting, said he would vote to cede the territory under the authority's purview to the city if that would halt annexation. He said he couldn't speak for other members of the authority board but asked attendees to call or e-mail them.

Also present at the meeting were County Mayor Claude Ramsey, Sheriff Jim Hammond, and county commissioners Larry Henry, Bill Hullander and Jim Coppinger.

Mr. Coppinger asked if anyone in the room was in favor of annexation. No hands were raised.

Mr. Ramsey advocated civility in annexation opponents' lobbying of Chattanooga City Council members.

"Do it in a kind and gentle sort of way," he said. "Threats don't amount to a hill of beans."