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Charleston concerned over Cleveland annexation plans

From the Cleveland Daily Banner: In most cases, the Charleston City Commission is concerned with issues within its own city limits, but at Tuesday

From the Cleveland Daily Banner: In most cases, the Charleston City Commission is concerned with issues within its own city limits, but at Tuesday night’s meeting, commissioners voiced concern over another city’s plans.


In August, the Cleveland City Council approved a motion directing the city to publish a notice announcing an annexation by referendum public hearing. This referendum would be for annexing both land contiguous to the Cleveland city limits as well as land not touching the city limits. The city would then begin taking petitions from communities desiring annexation to access sewer services.


Then, following a span of time from 30 to 60 days after the public hearing, a vote of affected residents in that proposed annexed land would be performed.


Charleston commissioners said this could lead to areas being annexed near, or even adjacent, to their city’s boundaries, some of which could be in Charleston’s plans should it decide to expand in the future.


“It’s sewer blackmail,” said Charleston Vice Mayor Frankie McCartney. “If you want sewer [service], you have to be annexed into the city.”


Specifically, he said, annexed into the area that is serviced by Cleveland Utilities.


McCartney noted that in an area of land that a developer might be considering for homes, having sewer rather than septic service would mean that more homes could be built.


At a June Bradley County Commission’s Building and Land Committee meeting, a local resident addressed the issue, even before it was approved by the Cleveland council, stating that it is not the residents who would be voting on the annexation, but the developer/land owner.


The full Bradley County Commission discussed this issue at its Aug. 28 work session, with several commissioners noting their concerns.


“I think it’s a way that the city can get around [the county commission] voting on whether they can annex people’s property or not,” said Commissioner Louie Alford at that meeting. Alford represents the district which includes Charleston.


Then, at the Building and Land Committee meeting last Tuesday, the issue was discussed even further, with Cleveland City Manager Joe Fivas addressing commissioners’ concerns. Fivas told the committee there had been no residents presently seeking annexation that led the council to schedule the public hearing, but it was done to be ready should that occur.


“We’re just throwing it out there,” Fivas told the committee.


The Charleston city commissioners, unaware of what occurred at that meeting, was still concerned that non-contiguous annexation could present a problem for their city.


McCartney went even further after the meeting, posting on the Facebook site “The Real Charleston Page,” of which he is administrator, his thoughts on the annexation issue.


“As developers began purchasing land, in most cases they had two choices,” the Charleston commissioner explained. “They could have used septic systems, which would have allowed for homes with a better quality of life for our children and future generations. However, this would have meant fewer homes and less profit.


“Instead of choosing the septic route, most developers opt for sewer connections, prioritizing profit as the sewer systems enable the construction of many homes in close proximity to one another, thereby diminishing the quality of life in the pursuit of this profit,” McCartney added. “Once a utility provides the sewer connection, the property is swiftly annexed into the city.”


Charleston commissioners said what their city residents, and even those just outside Charleston, can do is either attend the Sept. 25 public hearing, or reach out to their state representatives with their concerns.


In other business, the Charleston City Commission:

• Learned of a grant received for a special recycling day on Oct. 7 at Walker Valley High School, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., where local residents can bring recycling items for disposal, The Round Up Recycling project was made possible through the grant received by Keep Cleveland and Bradley County Beautiful.

• Tabled a decision on placing on the ballot a vote on liquor store(s) inside the city limits, awaiting a resolution to be drawn up by City Recorder Janet Newport. The commission will only vote on whether or not to place it on the ballot, not vote on the issue. It would then be up to the voters inside the city to approve or disapprove through their vote.

• Was told by Jaime Scoggins of the Charleston Planning Commission that the group was looking at the possible naming or renaming of buildings and streets inside the city. Darlene Goins of the Historical Society warned Scoggins to be very cautious about the names, and allow the society to look at any proposed changes before implementation.

• Was told by Goins that the recent International Cowpea Festival and Cook-off looks like it might have been the most successful of all of their festivals held in Charleston. She added that the National Trail of Tears Association will be visiting Charleston in October 2024 as they hold their conference in Ooltewah.

• Approved an agreement with Blue Line Solutions for cameras to be placed on Hiwassee Street (U.S. Highway 11) in the Charleston Elementary/STEAM Academy school zone to monitor traffic. The cameras will only be operational during normal school hours.

The Charleston City Commission’s next official meeting will be on Oct. 10 at the Walter Goode Municipal Building on Worth Street.