Mayor: Gluckstadt held hostage
A Gluckstadt businessman who gave thousands of dollars to support the incorporation effort is now appealing the ruling by Chancery Judge James Walker earlier this month.
Ron Hutchinson, owner of Mississippi Tent and Party Rental, filed an appeal with the court last Thursday, challenging both the jurisdictional ruling that Gluckstadt had received enough signatures and the ruling based on merit.
When contacted by phone on Tuesday, Hutchinson said "now was not a good time," before claiming he was unable to hear anything on the phone. Multiple attempts to reach him afterward were unsuccessful and messages were not returned.
Walter Morrison, the first appointed mayor for the proposed city of Gluckstadt, said Hutchinson's appeal has nothing to do with the city and everything to do with him wanting restrictions removed from commercial property he owns inside the proposed city limits.
"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.
Morrison said he spoke with Hutchinson several times over the last few months regarding the project and because he couldn't get a definitive answer from Glucktadt, Morrison said he appealed so he could try his luck with the Madison County Board of Supervisors instead.
Hutchinson is trying to get zoning restrictions removed on 3.71 acres of land east of Church Road and south of Calhoun Station Parkway. A legal notice for a public hearing running in this week's Journal calls for a hearing to remove certain zoning conditions. A hearing is scheduled for May 16 in front of the Madison County Planning & Zoning Commission.
In 2015, Hutchinson negotiated with area residents a resolution to rezone the subject property he owns with John and Annette Harreld from agriculture to commercial. Supervisors at the time approved the rezoning with a list of 22 restrictions. The fourth restriction on the list that Hutchinson agreed to was "no access to Church Road, all traffic routed to Calhoun Station Parkway. Instead, a cul-de-sac was set to be built there on the new proposed road in between the commercial developments.
Morrison said Hutchinson has since been trying to get that restriction removed, something he calls disingenuous because it was agreed upon less than four years ago.
Morrison said that Hutchinson wanted a commitment from him that once Gluckstadt incorporated the new board would grant the request to have the road built allowing Church Road access.
"At this point, we don't have the authority to do anything," Morrison said. "It's also wrong, unethical and improper for the mayor and the Board of Aldermen to make a backroom deal without having the benefit of a public hearing, without having input from people who may object."
Morrison said because of that stance, Hutchinson opted to appeal Gluckstadt's incorporation which delays them from becoming a city by up to a couple of years through the appeal period. In that window of time, Morrison said Hutchinson will try his luck with the county.
"He has thwarted the will of every business and individual in support of the Gluckstadt incorporation solely so he can seek to satisfy his own interest," Morrison said. "It's just very disappointing one person motivated by his own self-interest can stop everything."
Morrison said that Hutchinson and his business partners, the Harrelds, donated in total $5,000 in support of the Gluckstadt incorporation.
Hutchinson donated $2,500 on Aug. 2, 2017, check stubs show. Annette and John Harreld donated $1,250 each the same day.
"Mr. Hutchinson didn't take an adverse position to the incorporation during the trial," Morrison said. "He even gave money towards the effort. It's obvious what's going on.
"This is entirely holding the incorporation hostage," he continued. "Once one files a notice of appeal it could extend this by years down the road. Just the compilation of the appeal record will take months and cost a fortune."
No other appeals were filed and Morrison said they were pleased the city of Canton, whose own annexation trial was combined with Gluckstadt.
"The real battle that was fought was between the Gluckstadt incorporation effort and the City of Canton. They're apparently happy with the situation because they didn't appeal."