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Chattanooga City Council looks at land de-annexation proposal Tuesday night

A SkyCam view of the land owned by the Lookout Mountain Conservancy. The group wants its property to be annexed into Chattanooga.

UPDATE:

The Chattanooga City Council only held one of the two scheduled public meetings Tuesday night.

Representatives for the Institute of Health and Healing say they manage property for the Wildwood Lifestyle Center, a faith-based medical center that offers natural remedies to their patients. It's located on the Tennessee-Georgia border. According to the center, they have 390 acres of land in the Chattanooga city limits and now they want out.

"We're not looking to de-annex just to de-annex," said Cynthia Tolbert, attorney for the non-profit group. "We are looking to de-annex to be able to build on 390 acres. Who wants to own 390 acres and not be able to utilize that acreage."

Executive director, Charles Hightower, says right now, the center can only feasibly build on 15 acres of that land. People who run the center say employees and students at their schools live in housing units on that property. According to Tolbert, in 2006, the center asked the City for permission to build more housing, but they were denied. Because of that, the center says they've had to turn away new workers. The problems don't stop there.

"They pay over $12,000 a year for trash services," said Tolbert. "They're not supposed to pay for trash service. They're supposed to be provided that through the city."

Councilwoman Carol Berz says that's true. She was the most vocal council person at the meeting.

"If we didn't pick up at the homes that were there, we should have been and we'll get that answered," she said. Berz says the center should not assume de-annexing from the city will solve all of their problems.

After the hearing, Tolbert says de-annexation doesn't have to happen if their needs can be met some other way. The council recommended the center work with the executive director of the Regional Planning Agency before next Tuesday. That way, the center can see what their options are before figuring out if they want to de-annex from the city.

A second hearing was scheduled for the annexation of the Lookout Mountain Conservancy, but council chair Jerry Mitchell said they would not present because they must meet with the planning committee first.


ORIGINAL:

Two public hearings will take place Tuesday night at the Chattanooga City Council meeting.

The Lookout Mountain Conservancy will speak about the petition to annex its property into the city of Chattanooga.

According to the Conservancy's CEO Robyn Carlton, the properties on Old Wauhatchie Pike, Grandview Place, Church Street and Cravens Roadwill be turned into a hiking trails and a park that will connect to the Riverwalk. Carlton says no homes would be annexed if the petition gets approval.

On its website, the organization says its mission is "to protect Lookout Mountain’s scenic, historic and ecological resources through conservation, advocacy, recreation and education, for current and future generations."

Another organization, the Institute of Health and Healing/Wildwood Lifestyle Center wants its property to be deannexed from Chattanooga.

It was added to the city in 1989. According to the group's President Charles Hightower, it has not received city services listed in the annexation plan since 1995.

"Basically the annexation was not benefiting the Institute of Health and Healing," said Charles Hightower. "We're paying taxes to the city of Chattanooga, but we're not receiving city services."

In his petition, Hightower wrote that the Institute pays more than $5,600 a year in city taxes. Hightower says the property his group owns received the Chattanooga Fire Department's services on two occasions, and both times, there were problems and confusion about jurisdiction.

"We're on the end of the county, we're way out there here, it's very difficult to find and we are somewhat landlocked," said Hightower. "You have to go through Georgia to get to this property here."

Only employees and their families live on the property, and Hightower says they need to deannex so they can hire more staff and build more housing.

According to an ordinance on the Chattanooga City Council's website, the Department of Public Works, The Mayor's Office and the City Attorney do not recommend deannexation of the Institute's property.

City Councilman for the 7th district Erskine Oglesby says its too soon for him to make a decision about whether or not he supports the land leaving the city. But he thinks added the land owned by the Lookout Mountain Conservancy is a good idea.

"It would increase the tax base of the city because they do plan on putting some development up there," said Erskine Oglesby.

There's a vote schedule for next week on the deannextion. The annexation in Lookout Mountain would have to go through November's planning commission. A vote is expected on that matter by the end of the year.

This is a developing story. Depend on us to keep you updated.

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