Appeals Court Upholds Chancellor Brown In Elder Mountain Deannexation Case

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has upheld a decision of Chancellor Frank Brown in the Elder Mountain deannexation case.

Three Elder Mountain residents who opposed being deannexed by the city earlier filed suit. Susan Rich, Janis Burger and Carole Klimesch sued the city, the Election Commission and individual members of the election panel. 

The appeals court said, "This case presents the issue of whether citizens who reside on real property that is proposed for deannexation by a municipal ordinance may, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 6-51-201 (2011), properly bring a quo warrant or declaratory judgment action against the municipality to challenge adoption of the deannexation ordinance. The trial court dismissed these claims against the municipality, and the plaintiffs have appealed. The plaintiffs have also taken issue with the propriety of the trial court’s determination regarding who would be qualified to vote in the referendum election, as well as other procedural and evidentiary issues. Discerning no error, we affirm the decision of the trial court."

The Election Commission in March of 2013 certified a revote on the Elder Mountain deannexation issue. It was another tight vote by residents of the small upscale community - 25 to stay in the city of Chattanooga and 24 to be deannexed.

Chancellor Brown, in a 31-page memorandum opinion, earlier voided the Aug. 2, 2012, election in which 21 Elder Mountain residents voted for being deannexed from the city of Chattanooga and 20 were against the city pulling out.

Saying there were a number of election irregularities, he set the new vote.

Chancellor Brown said election officials needed to be sure there was proper notice of the election, and he said Marion County and Hamilton County election officials needed to work together to draft a list of eligible voters. The line between the two counties splits the neighborhood - and some houses.

Two weeks after that election, the lawsuit was filed.

In 2004, former Chattanooga Times publisher Ruth Holmberg had petitioned to be annexed into the city because she wanted to participate in city elections. That was granted. However, the current owner of her home did not want to be in the city and have to pay city taxes, saying he was not receiving full city services..


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