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Group proposes city of Hamilton


Written By: Rachel Sauls
Date: 10/26/11
Source: http://community.timesfreepress.com/news/2011/oct/26/group-proposes-city-hamilton/?Community-OoltewahCollegedale

Local grassroots organization Friends of Hamilton is standing behind its statement of intent to incorporate areas of Ooltewah, Georgetown and Birchfield into a new city called Hamilton.

According to group president Chris Matthews, the proposed new city would incorporate the area from Mahan Gap Road north toward Highway 60 and from the Bradley County line south to the Tennessee River. This area is home to 12,000 registered voters and an estimated 20,000 residents, he said.

“The original intent of incorporation is not to avoid annexation,” said Matthews. “We’ve been working on this for several months.”

Background

The city of Hamilton announcement was previously planned for release in November, but Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield’s request to convene a committee that will address and possibly revise the urban growth boundaries throughout the county spurred The Friends of Hamilton to release their announcement ahead of schedule, said Matthews.

Group member and spokesperson Brendan Jennings said the incorporation of Hamilton is not a move against Littlefield.

“Anyone in his position might logically consider annexation,” he said. “Littlefield only has 13 to 14 more months in office but whoever is next will be influenced by the same factors, and we can’t afford to say it’s just Littlefield. We’re working to protect and ensure a voice for people who don’t have one now.”

Matthews said that the major impetus to incorporate Hamilton is to give residents in the northeastern part of the county control of decision making and tax money instead of leaving it up to Chattanooga City Hall 20 miles away.

“The major benefits of incorporation are localized planning and revenue staying in the area,” he said. “We want to bring the decision making to the area being affected.”

Process

The first step in the process toward Hamilton’s incorporation is a petition supporting the incorporation that must be signed by one-third of the voters within the proposed city limits, said Jennings.

“We’re asking for petition signatures before we can get a true understanding,” he said. “The petition is more about getting voices heard and then eventually moving toward incorporation.”

If the petition is completed, a public hearing regarding a city charter and service plan will be held, the plan will be submitted to the election commission and then the city’s incorporation will be voted on in a special or general election, he said.

Assuming the process moves quickly and smoothly, Hamilton’s incorporation could be on the general election ballot in November 2012, said Matthews.

Taxes

Upon incorporation, the city of Hamilton would be required by state law to levy taxes.

“If we are annexed by Chattanooga, we’re looking at a 90 percent property increase,” said Jennings. “The city of Hamilton taxes wouldn’t approach that.”

According to Matthews, the city of Hamilton would attempt to create a flat infrastructure and he said taxes would likely fall at 1.5 percent or less per $100 assessment on real and personal property. Based on the services already existing in the area, the major expenses coming from city of Hamilton taxes would be road maintenance and building costs, said Jennings.

For more information, visit http://www.friendsofhamilton.org.

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