TN Senate votes to give annexation power back to the people
The Tennessee Senate voted 27 to 1 Thursday in favor of a bill sponsored by Hixson Senator Bo Watson that would halt a city's power to add new property without the owner's permission.
Currently, the city can acquire new territory by ordinances but critics say it's forced annexation.
"I've always believed that if, as a city, we were providing essential services exceptionally well then people will want to be a part of our city," District 3 Councilman Ken Smith says.
A few years back Smith's Hixson district fought former Mayor Ron Littlefield's proposal to annex property to the west and north of the city.
"The residents actually filed a lawsuit against it, trying to prevent the annexation from taking place," Smith explains.
However, the Scenic City's battle with annexation began long before that. In the mid 70's residents protested for years after the city annexed enough land to double in size.
"Chattanooga has a bigger actual footprint of land than Atlanta and about the same amount of land as Philadelphia. A lot of people have been annexed, just in their opinion for taxes and no other reason," Jim Folkner says.
Folkner's property was among the land annexed in 1975. He says he's yet to see all of the benefits of living inside city limits.
"Well there's some but not everything was promised. There's still no sewer on our road for starters," says Folkner.
The proposed law would require the city to fight for new residents.
"It'll force the cities to have to compete for people and not just take them in. It'll force the cities to be better cities and deal with the problems they have and not just go suck up property around them," says Folkner.
Mayor Andy Berke's spokeswoman, Lacie Stone tells Channel 3, if passed, the new bill will not apply to anything that's currently planned in the city. It would only impact future planned annexations which the city does not have.
"In a way, rather than growing the boundaries I think we have a lot of opportunity for growth within our limits already," Smith says.
The bill now goes before the House which is set for discussion next week. It's sponsored by Representative Mike Carter of Ooltewah.