Carroll rescinds motion for Gregson to vacate plat

By Allen Worrell Editor

November 2, 2013

A Fancy Gap business can go on as planned after the Carroll County Board of Supervisors voted Oct. 21 to rescind an approved July motion to vacate the plat of property owned by Stephen Gregson.

Supervisor Bob Martin originally made the motion during the board’s July 8 meeting to vacate the plat for Agape Motorcoach Retreat with the consent of Gregson, with the alternative to hold a public hearing on the matter if Gregson objected to vacating the plat. During the July meeting, Ronald Newman told the board the issue dated back to 2006 for a variance that was granted without a public hearing. Board Chairman David Hutchins said there were some things that were supposed to be recorded on a plat that were not, among several other things. At the time, he asked Newman to make a recommendation to the board. Newman said he had been working on the issue with County Attorney Jim Cornwell, but without a public hearing, the variance was improperly granted, meaning the variance would be considered null and void, and that the plat would need to be vacated to take care of the issue.

Gregson revisited the matter during the board’s Oct. 21 meeting. During Citizens’ Time, he said he felt Pipers Gap District Supervisor Tom Littrell failed to disclose a “conflict of interest” before the July vote since Littrell is co-owner of a business along with John Garner and Douglas Vaught called Square Properties, which operates a car museum and RV Park.

“Mr. Chairman, this RV Park is not in Carroll County to my understanding, but is in direct competition with the property in which this board member voted against without any disclosure of a conflict,” Gregson said. “The board member could say that his business in which he has controlling interest does not compete, but that would be like saying a dentist that sells dentures is different than a dentist that rents dentures. It’s still a dentist. I am not questioning the board member’s own statement that he has integrity, I am questioning his definition of integrity in this action.”

Gregson said he felt failing to disclose the conflict tainted the roll call, and that he felt Littrell should refrain on voting on the issue in the future. He also moved for Hutchins to admonish Littrell for failing to disclose the conflict, and asked for the motion to be rescinded.

During Supervisors’ Time, Martin asked Cornwell to bring the board up to date on the Agape Motorcoach situation. Cornwell said he was not county attorney when the Agape issue was first approved by the board in 2006. It was brought to his attention in July by Newman, he said. Cornwell said he then met with Gregson. The two were supposed to meet again on the matter but had not been able to do so. Cornwell said he wanted to wait to have a public hearing on the subject until he could speak with Gregson again.

Gregson said he felt the board’s July 8th vote was done without any file whatsoever on Agape. Cornwell said “for many valid reasons,” Gregson has not agreed to vacate the plat. It would take a public hearing to vacate the plat.

“I move we go ahead and schedule a vote,” Supervisor Sam Dickson said.

Cornwell said until he could meet again with Gregson, there is no need to hold a public hearing.

“I would prefer you just leave it with me. I am trying to deal with Mr. Gregson in good faith, and I think he is trying to deal with me in good faith,” Cornwell said. “We may have a difference in opinion when we come to the end of the road, but right now I would like to keep it that way. I don’t want to hold a hammer over anybody’s head. I just want to figure out if it was done properly. If I was involved, I would know, but I wasn’t, so I am trying to figure it out.”

Dickson said he would withdraw his motion since it wasn’t seconded. Martin said he was uncomfortable with the whole thing and he second guesses himself on the matter.

“I admit I may have made a mistake on this whole thing,” Martin said. “I don’t see anything from looking further into this matter, that this whole thing would be better off seeing the light of the sun on it. It is my understanding that the county’s own records are sometimes not available.”

Martin said he would feel much better if he could make a motion to rescind his July motion. In checking with Robert’s Rules of Order, he said he has the right to rescind the motion or to amend it.

“I move we rescind that motion I made in July,” Martin said.

Supervisor Josh Hendrick then seconded Martin’s motion to rescind.

Dickson said he felt if Gregson was in agreement to talk with Cornwell, he felt the county should let those two work together to resolve the matter. Again, Martin was not shy about his opinion on the matter.

“A problem that I have with the whole thing is we have the ability to railroad an average person, a citizen. And most of the attorneys the last time I looked, they don’t work for free. So I would hate to have to go against the board personally and have to hire my own attorney to defend me because a person could easily tie up $50,000, $100,000 with no guarantees he is going to win, and if he loses he picks up the county’s (end) on it,” Martin said. “I don’t know what great governmental principal that represents, but the board can railroad you. You have millions of dollars of assets and that bothers me pretty much.”

Martin did not agree with Gregson’s questioning of Littrell’s integrity, however.

“I also have to say that the comment against Dr. Littrell to my way of thinking is sort of a cheap shot. Knowing Dr. Littrell on the board, I have never seen him withhold, deny or whatever,” Martin said.

Dickson was the first to vote on Martin’s motion to rescind his July motion.

“I still think we need to let them handle it, so I vote no,” Dickson said.

Supervisor Phil McCraw was next. He said “this kind of thing is unfortunate.”

“I don’t like the way things have been played out in the newspapers because I also think Dr. Littrell is an honorable person,” McCraw said. “That being said, if I ever make a motion, I hope I never do, that I wished I hadn’t have, I would hope I could rescind it, so I vote yes.”

Hendrick and Martin also followed with yes votes. Littrell then commented on the matter.

“In spite of what has just been recently said, I do feel like I have integrity and I will back that up any way I can. And to address Mr. Gregson’s concerns, it is listed in my financial disclosure form that I am a third owner of Old Cranks RV Park, and that is a campground in Galax that rents camping spaces by the day,” Littrell said. “It was my understanding that the Agape Motorcoach project was a situation that the spaces were to be sold, not rented. If I am in conflict, if it was a misunderstanding of the use of the Agape property, I certainly will submit to the opinion of an unbiased individual to if there is a conflict. I abstain.”

Hutchins said he thought the county needed to let Cornwell continue to do whatever he needed to work the situation out, so he voted no. With Littrell abstaining, Martin’s motion to rescind passed by a 3-2 simple majority.

After the meeting, Gregson told The Carroll News he felt good that the Agape name had been cleared.

“We praise God for this because we feel God’s hand was on this completely to keep the Agape name. The vote to rescind the motion means that Agape’s plat is indefinite, that it was done correctly, that the motion to rescind was accepted by the board and therefore Agape can now continue to do business,” Gregson said. “Our only issue is we are on hold for the water and sewer to be completed so we can’t do anything with that project until the earliest of next spring now. So we will continue on to develop that, ourselves or with other developers on that project to try to bring some economic monies from outside the county inside the county to help Carroll County in that project.”

Agape Motorcoach Retreat is a 23-acre site that will be located at 579 Frog Spur Road in Fancy Gap.

“God told us to fight a good fight on this. I go back to Proverbs and David says if you can use the Agape name or a name like Agape, you need to stand up for it,” Gregson said. “We did everything we can to stand up for it, to do our best to clear the Agape name. I think the vote tonight clearly shows that.”