It was an odd and uncomfortable scene Monday morning at Sam & Andy’s in Fountain City when about 15 area residents showed up for a meeting between two county commissioners and an aspiring developer.
Randy Guignard, whose desire to build a subdivision on the side of a steep hill above flood-prone White’s Creek (which drains into even more flood-prone First Creek) was blocked by community opposition last year, sat at one table with his Realtor, Kim Isenberg.
County Commissioners Michele Carringer and Justin Biggs sat with their constituents at another table. The constituents were not happy to have gotten wind of the meeting over the weekend, even though it was properly “sunshined” on the county’s web page last Friday.
Beverly Road resident Arthur Parris, the closest neighbor to the proposed project, has had water in his basement and has rescued stranded motorists from their flooded cars in the past. He wasn’t happy to be dealing with this so soon after the February flooding had made life hard. Again.
“It got up over the railroad tracks and up into the field this time,” he said. “The city closed the road down at Broadway, too.”
Short notice aside, Parris and his neighbors don’t appear to like the notion of this development any better than they did a year ago when Guignard’s lawyer yanked the proposal off the agenda with a seconded motion on the floor. The motion was to limit the project to 100 total dwelling units on the 88-acre tract, far less than the 2.75 per acre Guignard said he needed to break even.
The bizarre meeting came about after Isenberg called newbie commissioner-at-large Biggs and asked him to meet with Guignard at Sam & Andy’s to discuss the project, which has been in limbo since last June.
Leaving aside the questionable legality of withdrawing a seconded motion, the lawyer’s gambit meant that Guignard had to wait a year before submitting a new plan, which is legally required to be “substantially different” from his original proposal.
“I’m new, but, yeah, I wasn’t comfortable with meeting a developer wanting to do something in Michele’s district,” Biggs said.
Carringer, who opposed the development the first time around and shows no sign of liking it any better now, told Biggs that the meeting needed to be posted on the commission’s website. He complied with her request, and Carringer thanks him for that.
“I was not happy about any of this. Justin could have legally met with them. He didn’t have to inform me about it, but I’m glad he did,” she said. “They were wanting to get him one-on-one.”
Guignard declined to talk to the group.
Carringer said she is making arrangements to set up a community meeting, preferably at New Harvest Park.
One thing that has changed is that Guignard, who had taken an option on the land last year, now owns the property outright after buying it from Ray H. Jenkins and his siblings last September under the name Café International LLC.
Jenkins inherited the property from his father, Ray Lee Jenkins, who inherited it from his grandparents, Erby and Nell Jenkins, who acquired it in 1946.
“Back then it was a working farm, connected to property on the other side of the railroad tracks that fronts Anderson Road,” Jenkins said. “A family named Moyers lived on the farm and worked it for Pa. I remember going over there and chasing cows and riding horses.”
Now, all that’s left of the farm is the steep, rocky hillside that has been considered undevelopable for decades.