Thursday, June 21, 2012
Zoning denies RV park, slide
By BARRY BURLESON
The Marshall County Zoning Board said no Thursday to a proposed campground and water slide on Highway 178, a few miles west of Holly Springs.
Randall Swaney asked permission to put a KOA-type campground and 67-foot-high water slide on his property across from McAlexander Road and adjacent to Highway 78 (future Interstate 22). The property is already zoned commercial but zoning said he had to be granted a special exception for the project.
Several community residents spoke in opposition, mentioning steady traffic, noise, the smell, drugs and the tight location between two highways without direct access to the interstate.
A group of three spoke in favor – saying Holly Springs and Marshall County need new attractions to boost the economy and provide recreation.
Swaney said there are no campgrounds directly on the interstate between Memphis, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala.
“Obviously, you can get off and go to Wall Doxey,” he said.
He said he will be looking for RV travelers who will spend one night and go on.
“People cannot live there,” he said.
Swaney, who has been in the billboard business, said he wanted to do “something nice” in Holly Springs, his hometown.
“My mother is here; my sister is here; this is where my roots are,” he said.
“I will be there overseeing the operation. Anything I build, I will take care of it.”
He said the water slide, which he has already ordered, would be inflatable – there for the summer months and gone in the winter. Its cost is approximately $150,000.
“I know some are for it and some are against it,” Swaney said. “I certainly respect everyone’s concerns. But this is my new business.”
He said he is a family man with four daughters and another on the way, and he wants to do a project that will benefit Marshall County.
Flick Ash, zoning board member, said he could not see Swaney staying out there and overseeing the facility.
“I will be there,” Swaney responded. “It will be first-class.”
Ash said, “I can’t see it being good for the county – drugs, etc. These type things bring problems.”
Swaney responded, “I will focus on it and work hard. I won’t allow drugs. I assure you, there will be no riffraff. I will personally be there.”
The project will also include a $60,000 tent (60x60), “which would be there for parents waiting on their children,” Swaney said.
Zoning commissioner Bill Kinkade said the goal is controlled economic growth for Marshall County.
“We have to proceed with vision and caution when we entertain something like this,” he said.
“My concern is – nobody plans on building a bad RV park but where will it be five years from now if it doesn’t work and closes.”
Swaney said he would be willing to take the RV park off his agenda for now and just go with the water slide.
Then the board asked for input from the audience.
Dennis Ash, who lives on McAlexander Road, said he had submitted a letter to zoning in opposition.
“I’m afraid the spot will turn into a drug-dealing spot,” he said. “And, I’ve visited those type campgrounds, and you can smell them from here (the zoning office) to Holly Springs (downtown).”
Kinkade said he saw the drug problem as a cultural one in the area not particularly a campground issue.
“There are nice campgrounds,” Kinkade said.
Ash said he is not against the water slide. He said he would also like to also see a bowling alley and a miniature golf course.
“Those would be a lot easier to manage,” he said.
Jennifer Stroupe, who lives across from the property, voiced opposition. She said there is no direct access to the interstate, with the nearest exits being West Holly Springs or Red Banks and it does not need to be in that particular area.
She also said she is concerned “about the type people who could creep into the campground.”
She also asked how the water slide would be staffed.
“Will there be lifeguards to deal with potential problems?” Stroupe asked.
Zoning commissioner Ed Moses said there would be no actual swimming but the facility would have to be certified.
Norma Ash, another opposed to the project, said she once lived near a KOA campground in Hernando that “started really nice and it’s no longer there.” She said it evolved into tents, RVs with no wheels and clothes on clotheslines.
“There were arguments there – too many people in close quarters,” she said.
She also said a lot of traffic now turns around in her driveway on McAlexander Road and she doesn’t want more.
“Plus, the water slide will include music, screaming and laughter,” Ash said. “We put a lot of expense into our quiet environment. This will disturb it.”
Swaney said it is very loud there already because the property borders the interstate. Asked about the size of the property, he said three and half acres (200 feet wide and 3,000 feet long).
Betty Johnson, whose land adjoins Swaney’s on Highway 178, said she wanted to protect her property.
“We live there every day,” she said.
She said it’s between two busy highways, and a campground should be where campers can hear the birds and see the squirrels.
Judy Ash said she knows Swaney has good intentions but fears what will happen five to 10 years down the road.
“The traffic and noise – there will be a constant stream of traffic in a residential area,” she said.
Ernest Harris, Percy Freeman and Annie Moffitt supported Swaney’s project.
“These are the type people we want to attract – those traveling on vacation,” Harris said. “Holly Springs needs attractions.”
He said he had a petition in support signed by 800 residents.
Harris said the water slide would not be a daycare center.
“It’s for the kids to come and enjoy themselves and leave,” Harris said. “And the tent’s purpose – you wait on your kids.”
Freeman said he had been looking for a job since 2009 and this was a great opportunity for him, too.
Moffitt, owner of Annie’s Restaurant, said, “We need some money to come into this area. In order for your town to grow, we have to bring something in. Our kids don’t have anywhere to go. Activities like this will be better for our children.
“As for drugs, if you don’t give a child something to do, the man on the street will give the child something to do.”
She said the RV park would generate people coming to Holly Springs to eat and shop.
“We need unity; we must come together,” she said.
Kinkade made a motion to deny the entire request (RV park and water slide) and refer Swaney to the board of supervisors. The vote was 4-0 (Kinkade, Ash, Moses and Ethelene Jones). Commissioner Joe Hurdle was absent.
Swaney asked the procedure for getting on the supervisors’ agenda.
“I will do whatever I have to do to protect my investment,” he said.
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