Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

October 8, 2013

City council faces annexation and charter issues

By Jim Young
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — Annexations of new property into the city limits of Crossville have generally been fairly routine matters for those property owners who request to be annexed.

That could be changing if discussion at last week’s council work session is any indication. Annexations on tonight’s council agenda may be the first to face a harder scrutiny by at least one council member.

The slate of city charter changes recently recommended by a three member charter change committee is also up for council approval along with additional changes proposed by councilman Pete Souza but not added by the committee including changing the voting rights of non-resident property owners and setting term limits for positions of mayor and council members

Tonight’s city council meeting starts at 6 p.m. for the regular agenda in council chambers with a meeting of the audit committee set for 5:30 p.m. in the city hall conference room.

On tonight’s agenda are two new annexations, one that has raised the ire of Councilman Souza, especially after the discussion he led during the council’s last work session. The requested annexation in question is one of 15.83 acres requested by The Gardens.

Generally, property owners who request annexation have had their property brought into the city limits and those annexations often are requested to gain access to city sewer service and other city amenities such as garbage pickup. These requested annexation have given the city a somewhat spider like appearance as neighboring property is not annexed unless owners are willing and request annexation as well.

A discussion of the matter was brought up by Souza at last Tuesday’s work session. Souza wanted all future annexations to not be routinely approved simply because they are requested, but he said he felt they should be looked at from a business standpoint considering current city taxpayers and to determine if the city would make enough money from services and taxes to pay for the cost of providing city services to new annexations.

Souza explained during the work session he brought the matter up to “provoke thinking” on the issue and expressed concern about empty commercial properties on West Avenue and other areas near the downtown part of Crossville. He said his concerns were with what he described as the current system of annexations having no planning method and being entirely “developer driven.”

Souza is concerned with development along the Northwest Connector and development of commercial property that would continue to pull businesses out of the central business district.

Other concerns addressed by Councilman Souza included what he called “areas of neglect” in the older residential part of the city including abandoned houses and drug houses where he watched what he said appeared to be drug deals taking place. During the work session Souza handed Crossville Police Chief David Beaty a piece of paper following his comments.

Souza also made a case for the city to consider zoning. He said that business-wise, parts of the city “were going down the tubes.” Souza added that he knew zoning would a “tough sell” and would not be politically easy to do.

When asked about the possibility of zoning, city codes administrator Jeff Kerley said some cities in the area have it, but added that he was “not sure how zoning would go over” for Crossville but he would follow the council’s decision on the matter.

The city charter changes proposed by the three members of the charter change committee are generally agreed to by the councilmen. The committee has released a 19 page report that includes the changes including updates from changes in the state law.

Councilman Souza sought changes that were not included in the report including a proposal to add term limits of two terms for the offices of mayor and council members. He also wants to drop a requirement of a minimum value on property to allow a property owner to vote in city elections saying the voting should be about the amount of money someone has.

Committee member Lanny Colvard explained that property based voting was not a right and the city of Chattanooga lost a lawsuit over property owners voting a number of years ago and Crossville set minimum values because of it. He added that the decision of the council is how much they want to dilute the voting power of city residents.

The matter of term limits, said Souza, came from constituent calls who he said wanted the limits put in place. Councilman George Marlow said he felt the council “shouldn’t take the rights of voters away.” He said the voters should be allowed to decide how long someone should be in office.

Other items on the council’s agenda include sewer line improvements, rates charged for depositing septic tank waste at the wastewater treatment plant and the proposed sale of two lots on Waterview Drive owned by the city.