Now that the pandemic has started to ease up and business is getting somewhat back to normal, the deep divisions in Summerfield politics are showing themselves full force again.
Proposed changes to development ordinances, a large, proposed project by developer David Couch and a new debate over the fitness for the job of Summerfield Town Planner Chris York are all elevating tensions in the town once again.
That tension was obvious this week in an email exchange between Summerfield Town Councilmember John O’Day and Don Wendelken, a local newspaper publisher who’s been very outspoken against what he sees as a complacent Town Council that, he says, lets developers have their way and keeps York employed with the town when he should be let go.
In its most basic form, the lion’s share of disputes in the town come in regard to the proper pace of development, and York is seen by some citizens as a problem. In two high-profile incidents, York has had to apologize publicly after lashing out at citizens on social media and in texts. He has been suspended, but some in the town say he should be gone completely.
In a recent email to O’Day and other town officials, Wendelken was critical of York remaining as town planner. He stated his reasons why.
“In case you were interested,” he wrote. “But, of course, most of your minds are made up by now, and only November and the next election could change things? Pressuring the planning board to move the date up is pretty obvious, and all of you tend to forget – you do not own Summerfield. Most of you will laugh my email off, and I expect nothing less.”
Wendelken added, “No staff job is guaranteed, and I am still amazed Chris is still employed based on current and past actions.”
Wendelken pointed out previous actions by York that Wendelken said demonstrated “abysmal judgment.”
Wendelken also wrote, “The more Scott [Summerfield Town Manager Scott Whitaker] and the council protect Chris, and he messes up ‘again,’ you would undoubtedly be subject to a lawsuit.”
He concluded, “Thanks for opening this email, and as suspected, most of you will delete it.”
Wendelken’s email clearly ticked off O’Day, who responded to Wendelken: “Do you know my mind is made up? So, do tell, what is my mind made up to? I find that insulting. I am, by law, required to give every proposal that comes before the Council a fair hearing. I have always and will continue to do so.”
The Summerfield Town Council has several key development-related decisions to make in the second half of 2021.