Developer David Couch and the Town of Summerfield have been going back and forth for a very long time over a nearly 1,000-acre residential and mixed-use development that Couch wants to put on property he owns in the town.

But now that back and forth seems to have come to a halt and it looks increasingly like Couch will choose the path of de-annexation – getting the North Carolina General Assembly to remove the property from the town so that he doesn’t have to battle Summerfield over the vision he has for the development.

That threat of de-annexation caused the town to eventually promise Couch some of what he was asking for, but it looks like it was too little too late.

Complicating these negotiations is the situation with town administration.  The council has voted not to renew the town manager’s contract and, in the wake of that decision, the town attorney resigned.  Couch apparently felt he could work with those two.

Now, the Summerfield Town Council and other town leaders are trying to keep the town whole. Earlier this month, Town Councilmember Jon Hamilton, after seeking permission from the council, wrote Couch and pointed out that the council had previously agreed to allow zoning that Couch seemed to find somewhat better.

“The next step, though,” Hamilton’s letter to Couch reads, “is one that practically requires the active participation of property owners: rezoning property into the newly created zoning district. However, the Town has yet to receive any application from you to rezone your property into this Town-created zoning district. The Town therefore cannot move the process further as to your Villages of Summerfield Farms project without your active participation. We are hopeful that the Town and you can begin the discussion on this and other next steps.”

That letter got a scathing response from Attorney Tom Terrell, who’s representing Couch. Terrell started by saying that he’d made it clear to town officials that all communication should go through him, not directly to Couch.

“Mr. Hamilton requests meetings with the town, yet it is difficult to impossible to discern who is in charge,” Terrell’s letter states. “The mayor’s prerogatives seem to have been usurped, and Summerfield will soon have no town manager, no town attorney, and only a partially-staffed planning board after the majority on the council summarily purged these civil servants in recent weeks. Mr. Hamilton’s letter is the latest salvo from a town in chaos whose government seems to exist for the singular purpose of preventing a private landowner from building homes for middle-income North Carolinians.”

The lengthy letter had many other cutting remarks as well.

“In sum,” it concludes, “I afford no trust or confidence in the true purposes behind Mr. Hamilton’s letter, and I’m not even certain for whom he speaks. In a few short months, he and three of his colleagues have taken extreme action to further frustrate Mr. Couch’s plans for his own land, purging Summerfield of staff who previously worked with Mr. Couch’s team in good faith.”

 Terrell added, “In almost 40 years working in municipalities and counties throughout this state and other states, I have never witnessed the level of dysfunction and self-manufactured drama as is on display right now in Summerfield – all to stop a private citizen and long-time Summerfield resident from building residences …”

In a letter to the Northwest Observer and Summerfield Scoop newspapers, Hamilton pointed out that he was in fact representing the town council.

Hamilton wrote that he had stated at a Town Council meeting that he wanted to contact Couch and see if they could get him to the table.  “All of the council agreed,” Hamilton wrote. “I also asked Mayor Sessoms directly if he saw any issue with that, and he stated, ‘Absolutely not.’  Sessoms went on to tell me, ‘If they’ll talk to you, I encourage it.’”

Terrell’s biting response seems to be a confirmation to many in the town that Couch will continue to pursue de-annexation, and therefore the town should focus its persuasion efforts on the General Assembly going forward.