Archive for November, 2011

Anti-Annexation Group Sends Warning Letter To Pastors




posted November 15, 2011

Friends of Hamilton, a non-profit anti-annexation group, has sent a letter via e-mail to pastors at nearly 30 churches in northeast Hamilton County “to warn them that they are being targeted for more burdensome taxes and fees.”

Chris Matthews, president, said, “We believe these churches and their members will be among the hardest to be hit if Chattanooga Mayor Littlefield is successful at changing urban growth boundaries, which will enable the city to annex larger portions of Ooltewah and Harrison.”

The letter states:

November 12, 2011

A Message to Pastors of Northeast Hamilton County Churches

Dear Pastors, I am writing you today about change coming to our area and how we need your help as leaders in the community.

In 2009, the City of Chattanooga annexed properties along Highway 58 in Harrison, including Bayside Baptist Church. State laws gave Bayside no voice in the annexation. As a result, the church saw its property taxes increase nearly 90% and faced stormwater fees of about $12,000 along with other costs.[i] Bayside is a large church that has significantly expanded in the past 20 years. Most churches in the northern part of Hamilton County aren’t as large and as able to deal with such added costs.

Now, the City of Chattanooga is attempting to annex areas in Ooltewah and Harrison, extending its reach from previous annexations as a result of VW, Amazon and other employers investing in our area. The City of Cleveland appears to be looking to annex faster-growing parts of Georgetown and Birchwood near its urban growth boundaries. Within the next few years, the state plans to build a bridge across the Tennessee River near Mahan Gap Road.[ii]

Economic growth is bringing more residents and urbanization pressures to northeastern Hamilton County. Incorporated cities look at the potential for further growth this area can bring and they want to claim those tax dollars for themselves. What we have seen from the recent Chattanooga annexations is that citizens and businesses being annexed have little say in the matter. They instantly see their tax rates go up and get charged for stormwater and other fees, yet they often don’t see the promised services for years.

The good news is that citizens of Ooltewah, Harrison, Georgetown and Birchwood don’t have to sit passively by and watch their churches, residential areas and businesses get gobbled up by established cities hungry for more tax dollars. There is another way.

Some business and community leaders in northern Hamilton County have created a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization called Friends Of Hamilton. Our mission is simple: to create the model city of Hamilton, with very limited infrastructure services required by the state and requested by its citizens. We believe that our people will be better served having their interests represented more locally instead of 23 miles away in Downtown Chattanooga. Our objective is to increase the quality of life, keep property taxes low and streamline government operations.

While state law will require this new city, like any city, to collect property taxes, we look to minimize government costs by tightly controlling what services the city would need to offer by contracting some to current providers. The City of Walden, for example, contracts with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department to provide police services. It also contracts other services out to other public and private entities. And its tax rates are among the lowest for cities in Hamilton County.

We aim to provide area citizens more responsive government while tightly controlling the purse strings. Our group leaders are business and community leaders, not politicians, so we have every incentive to live up to our organizational goals. The time to take action is NOW!

In order to do this, we need your help.

First, we need reliable volunteer leaders who can help us spearhead our petition canvassing efforts; people who can go to local events, public areas and businesses and get qualified residents to sign petitions.

Second, we need your donations. These donations help provide you with a more effective local voice. When you balance a nearly 90% property tax hike with annexation versus incorporating the new City of Hamilton, your donations can save you significant dollars later!

Finally, please tell your friends, family and neighbors about the website, and have them follow us for updates on Facebook or Twitter.

Our area is blessed by the quality of the people who live here, by its natural resources and by the economic growth that appears to be soon at hand. With your help and your prayers, we can have a greater voice in the future development of this portion of Hamilton County while more effectively responding to peoples needs.

The time is NOW!

Thank you.

Chris Matthews
Friends of Hamilton

Categories: News

New Friends Of Hamilton Brochure

The Friends of Hamilton release a printable brochure to hand out to our neighbors.

Friends of Hamilton Brochure

Categories: General

Hamilton County residents reject urban growth plans as groundwork for annexation

By Beverly A. Carroll

Published Wednesday, November 9, 2011 9:14 am EST


A Tuesday night meeting at Loftis Middle School took on occasional tones of a tent revival as Hamilton County Commissioner Mitch McClure—a preacher in his professional life—addressed the nearly 200 attendees on urban growth plans.

McClure urged the crowd, made up mostly of Middle Valley area residents, to make known their displeasure with plans to review the urban growth boundaries, which are only the ground work for future annexation, he said.

“I believe in freedom of choice,” McClure told a cheering group gathered at the school’s gymnasium. “That’s what this country is all about, freedom of choice. I almost said amen, I’m about to start preaching.”

McClure invited residents from District 3, which he represents, to attend the meeting to discuss plans to convene an urban growth committee. Required in 1998 by the state constitution, the 2001 urban growth plan shows where incorporated areas plan to expand their boundaries over a 20-year period. Under state law, a review committee can be called by a request from a representative of a municipality included in the original plan. At the request of Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger has activated the process and set a meeting Dec. 15, meeting a 60 day deadline.

“This is like a hostile takeover,” Brenda Erwin said during the hour-long meeting. “It’s just laying the groundwork for annexation. We’re determined to stop it, we are going to write letters, emails and make phone calls to local and state legislators.”

Residents expressed concerns about paying more taxes and getting less services if they are annexed by the city of Chattanooga. Some said they believe the city just wants to annex them to get their property for future projects, such as a large prison, and others said they were angry that they cannot vote on the issue.

“Why are we here if we can’t vote,” said one woman. “What is the point.”

McClure, who was appointed to the District 3 seat after Jim Coppinger was selected to replace former county Mayor Claude Ramsey, told the crowd that they show strength in numbers.

McClure also made mention of a “certain City Council member who has a radio show,” who he said called Middle Valley residents hypocrites for using city services but not paying for them.

“I’m mad, that makes me mad,” he said, referring to Councilman Andrae McGary, who hosts WGOW’s Live and Local radio show.

Residents who are annexed will be forced to assume Chattanooga’s debts, McClure said. And the county has assumed the full costs of the city jail and the school system, he added.

Another woman asked, to sounds of approval from the crowd, why the city didn’t help pay for part of the schools.

But Chattanooga City Council members and other city officials said city tax payers do pay for the jail, the schools and other county services that city residents do not benefit from, such as fire service. City property owners pay county taxes, and taxes paid from city property owners make up 58 percent of the Hamilton County general budget.

Retired Dallas Bay volunteer fire Chief Al Rosamond said Tuesday’s gathering is the beginning of a grassroots effort that can stop the annexation of unincorporated areas.

“Start with the local politicians, small city and county ones, that are going to be appointing people to the urban growth committee,” Rosamond said. “Let them know if they don’t appoint someone who does what we want, we will vote them out.”

Other residents said that it will be difficult for those who live in the unincorporated areas because they cannot threaten Soddy-Daisy or Lakesite elected officials with campaigning against them.

The urban growth committee must have one representative from each incorporated community inside the county, as well as the county government. Then members of the school board and chamber of commerce must be represented, as required by the state law governing the formation of the committee. The decision to accept a plan must be unanimous.

Some residents asked if they had the one “no” vote from Coppinger, why should they worry about this plan.

McClure said turning out in large numbers would send a message to lawmakers.

“You can never have enough to be sure,” he said. “Better to have a super majority to send a message.”

Aaron Shipley, an area realtor, said residents should call Chattanooga City Council members and tell them they are against it. Those council members will take their message to Littlefield, he said.

McClure, who is running for the County Commission’s District 3 seat in a special election in 2012, said the residents must write their state legislators to get the law changed to allow citizen votes on urban growth plans and annexation plans.

Categories: News

Chattanooga Resident On Storm Water & Additional Fees

November 3, 2011 1 comment

Storm Water Fees & Additional Fees From Chattanooga

A local Chattanooga resident sent this very informative information.

Chattanooga Resident: I was reading your website, the stormwater fees were increased from the amount shown. The annual fee is $105.00 for residential per year, but businesses pay $105 per each 3,200 sq ft of impervious area (ie parking lots, roof tops, etc). From this map , you take the ERU: Equivalent Residential Unit from a parcel and multiple times the $105 per unit to get the fee. Our Church has a $13,000 storwmater fee. The credit system is smoke and mirror. This fee applied to your private and public schools as well (call Gary Waters HCDE) ask what they pay in stormwater fee. In Chattanooga some churches and school have stormwater fees for $15,000 a year.

Also, you forgot to include the franchise fees collected from City residents from natural gas, comcast cable, electric, and public utilities bills, read the Chattanooga fee added on the bills. In March 2011, the City increased the amount collected on Natural Gas bills from $322,000 to $1.2 million. I wish your organization the best and much success.

Mayor Coppinger Reconvening Urban Growth Committee On Dec. 15

Coppinger Reconvening Urban Growth Committee On Dec. 15
posted November 2, 2011

County Mayor Jim Coppinger said the coordinating committee of the Urban Growth Plan will convene on Dec. 15 at the County Commission meeting room.

The session is at the request of Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield.

Mr. Coppinger earlier said the request by Mayor Littlefield appeared to meet the requirement for having the group of local city leaders take a new look at growth boundaries.

He said, “Any municipality could have made the same request.”

If the committee agrees to stretch the city of Chattanooga’s boundaries as requested, the city would have a certain time period in which to carry out the annexations.

Mayor Littlefield is proposing that the coordinating committee consider sweeping additions to city territory to the north.

He is asking consideration of new city of Chattanooga lines next to Lakesite and Soddy Daisy in the northwest portion of the county.

The mayor asks expanded city lines in the rapidly growing northeast portion of the county all the way to the Bradley County line at one point. The city limits would extend to Mahan Gap Road, Harrison Pike, Snow Hill Road and Birchwood Pike.