The landowner who made an 11th-hour appeal and managed to stall the Gluckstadt incorporation claims he did so because a new city wouldn’t have the procedures and organizational infrastructure in place to facilitate development — his development, it turns out.

His appeal stopped the new city dead in its tracks, so while Gluckstadt is on hold, he trots up to the county to get his way.

 



Speaking to the Madison County Planning & Zoning Commissioners last week, Ron Hutchinson’s attorney, Sheldon Alston of the Brunini law firm, claimed Gluckstadt won’t be able to accommodate zoning requests and hearings, thus impacting his client’s ability to develop his land properly. 

What a load of bunk!

Other than a bribe, how does Alston explain Hutchinson and co-landowners John and Annette Harreld donating $5,000 to the incorporation effort — and turning around and objecting to the new city when he couldn’t get a commitment from new leaders to rezone his property. 

Why didn’t Hutchinson and the Harrelds appeal during the incorporation hearings? They waited until approval was granted and then appealed, an action that could delay Gluckstadt for years and cost a fortune.

Why does would-be Gluckstadt Mayor Walter Morrison say Hutchinson held them hostage seeking a back-room deal to approve the re-zoning? 

Interestingly, the county P&Z Board approved last week, in a 3-1 vote, a recommendation to give Hutchinson what he wants, an arrangement likely greased up by the Harreld boys who have long been known to swing their influence around the Courthouse.

Zoning is recommending the Board of Supervisors allow construction of a connector road instead of a dead-end after another high-dollar lawyer spoke for a couple of minutes using conjecture rather than fact.

John Wade, also of the Brunini law firm, told commissioners that building a connector road will attract “high-end” businesses, something he repeated multiple times in a short presentation. That’s it. That’s what was presented to the board. 

“Very few high-end businesses want to develop at the end of a dead-end,” he said, offering no proof to support his claim.

Connect to Church Road and they will roll in, he said, up to $100 million in total development — again, with nothing to back up the claims. 

He said there is a clear change of character in the neighborhood and cited examples of the new Mac Haik dealerships and body shops built within the last couple of years. 

But, Hutchinson and the Harrelds aren’t looking to re-zone their property from residential to commercial. That occurred in 2015 with the stipulation of the dead-end.

There’s already a proposed road ending in a cul-de-sac. Nothing is stopping them from developing that property right now. They only want to maximize the marketability of that property, which we can fully understand. 

But, they were the ones who agreed to the conditions, including the cul-de-sac, less than four years ago, so they knew what the marketability of that land was back then. 

Now they’ve gotten greedy and are holding up the entire community.

It would be different if they approached the P&Z board with a site plan and a contract for a new grocery store, and argued the introduction of this business would generate a certain amount of traffic that could only be handled with completion of a through road. They didn’t, though. They presented conjecture. 

Road studies have been done, apparently, they said, but what’s the traffic count? How do you know what traffic will impact the area if you don’t know what’s coming yet? 

If you want to sell your house for a higher price, you can go in and install granite countertops and new wood floors. If you don’t, you can still sell your home, maybe just not as much as you want. 

Hutchinson and the Harrelds are taking the same approach with this land. They can develop their land now, as-is, but they want to get that new countertop price and argue the connector road is the path to achieve that. 

We agree there has been a change in character, but not with the neighborhood. 

People living west of the proposed road argue traffic, which is already a nightmare, will be much worse if the road is approved and a new intersection is put there. That was the reason for the cul-de-sac in the first place. 

The irony of it all is that Alston and his firm represented the Ridgeland Nine, the homeowners who fought the Costco on the Highland Colony Parkway when the Parkway was zoned and created with the sole intent of commercial development. 

Now, ironically, the firm is representing a developer who lacks the zoning he wants and one who has chosen to halt the city of Gluckstadt. They are offensive to most of the population.

Maybe there ought to be a hearing on the re-zoning. Perhaps it’s a good thing.

Bribery and coercion — even in the form of a legal contribution —?are not acceptable, and the Board of Supervisors should take the actions of Lord Hutchinson and the Harrelds into consideration when they make their decision.