A restrictive condition on commercial property on Church Road that has been at the center of the Gluckstadt incorporation was removed by the county zoning board last week.

Ron Hutchinson, John Harreld and Annette Harreld petitioned the Madison County Planning & Zoning Commission to remove a condition on 3.71 acres of land that currently requires a cul-de-sac instead of a connector road to Church Road. 

 



The matter ultimately goes to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

Attorneys representing the landowners say a connector road will allow them to properly develop the property and attract “high end” businesses to the location. 

Hutchinson last month filed an appeal against the Gluckstadt incorporation effort, which opened a new timeframe that allowed the city of Canton to file an appeal as well.

Walter Morrison, the appointed mayor of Gluckstadt, previously told the Journal that Hutchinson filed the appeal to buy time to get approval for the road at the county level. 

“What he wanted was a commitment from the appointed mayor and the appointed Board of Aldermen to support his efforts to get a road extended up to Church Road from where his property is located there,” Morrison said in April. 

Morrison said since there is no city of Gluckstadt officially, they could not make any such agreements with Hutchinson. Morrison said that’s why Hutchinson filed the appeal to instead petition to county supervisors to allow for the road. 

Sheldon Alston, an attorney with the Brunini Law Firm representing Hutchinson, told P&Z commissioners last Thursday that the reason why Hutchinson filed an appeal was because it would have taken too long for the new city to get its infrastructure in place to handle zoning and development matters. 

“All he wanted to do was reasonably develop his property,” Alston said. “He needed this process.”

Alston said Gluckstadt “didn’t have the capacity” to make any decisions, saying they wouldn’t have had a zoning board, engineers or tax revenue to make immediate decisions. 

“It’s not, like, their fault,” he said. “It’s the reality of the circumstances.”

P&Z Chair Walter McKay called Alston’s statements a red herring, and that Gluckstadt would have been able to make the same decision they are asking county supervisors to make. 

“The county’s not going to have any responsibility to what he wants to do,” McKay said. “That’s a decision. The City of Gluckstadt could have made that decision.”

McKay said the road would be built by the developers so the city wouldn’t have to have a lot of engineers on the project. 

“That’s a moot point,” he said. “I think that’s a red herring.”

John Wade, also an attorney with Brunini representing Hutchinson and the Harrelds, said in addition to removal of the condition regarding the road, they also were seeking removal of a condition to build a three-foot berm on the property facing Church Road. 

Wade said back in 2015 there were 22 conditions put on the property when it was rezoned from residential to commercial. He said back then Church Road was only two narrow lanes and commissioners at the time said it couldn’t handle any further traffic. 

“We submit that a lot has changed in the character of the neighborhood,” Wade said, arguing Church Road has now expanded to three lanes with a turn lane and a traffic light at Calhoun Station Parkway. 

“There’s also significant increased development in that area,” he said, pointing to the Mac Haik auto dealerships, multiple body shops and a recently-approved office complex. 

Wade said the P&Z should recommend approval of the removal of the two restrictions on the property because it will “attract higher-end businesses and benefit the community both aesthetically and economically.” 

“Very few high-end businesses want to develop at the end of a dead end,” he continued. “Connect this to Church Road. Promote higher-end businesses.”

He said if the road were to remain a cul-de-sac, the backside of buildings would face Church Road and it would look unpleasant. 

Wade argued they had a traffic study that showed a new connector road could reduce traffic on Church Road. 

As for the berm, he said that condition was a result of a traffic study and could impair motorists’ ability to see. 

McKay disagreed, saying the berm would not be on the right-of-way, but behind that, so it would have no impact on drivers. 

Former Justice Court Judge Bill Weisenberger spoke out against the road and removal of the berm requirement, saying his recollection of discussions back in 2015 differed from Wade’s. 

“Although I’m definitely not against what they are trying to do with their property, I do want to address the previous agreement we had,” Weisenberger, a lifelong Gluckstadt resident, said. 

Weisenberger said traffic has gotten worse, and even though it’s three lanes now, it’s after the proposed connector road. He said putting in another intersection so close to Calhoun Station Parkway will make traffic even worse. 

“People struggle every day, all day to get in and out of (Germantown subdivision),” he said. 

With regards to the berm, Weisenberger said the reason it was added to the list of conditions was because there was a cul-de-sac road in place, so drivers on Church Road wouldn’t see the back of the buildings. 

“An agreement was made back then that a berm would be built and trees planted on it,” he said. “That was the purpose of the berm. I remember that well. If it’s a cul-de-sac, build that berm, plant trees on it, disguise the back of those ugly buildings.”

Commissioners then took up both the road and berm separately. 

McKay called for a motion on the road and there was silence for 20 seconds before a motion to approve was made. It passed 3-1 with Rev. Henry Brown, Larry Miller and Dr. Bill Howard voting in favor. McKay voted no, and Bill Billingsley recused himself from the entire discussion. 

After passage of the road recommendation, McKay made a motion to keep the berm requirement in place. Brown made the second and it passed 4-0, with Billingsley again recusing himself. 

The matter will be presented to the Board of Supervisors at the first meeting in June where they can ultimately approve or deny both requests.