KINSEY – Every day William Holman goes to work, the Dothan Area Botanical Gardens executive director witnesses natural beauty and inhales wonderful aromas.
Something afoul may be brewing nearby, though, especially if a proposed development gains traction with Town of Kinsey officials.
Kinsey Planning and Zoning Board will consider a request from Mark Dunning Industries to rezone property in order to establish a garbage transfer station on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Kinsey Senior Citizens Center. While zoning officials will affirm or denounce the proposal with a vote Thursday, the Kinsey Town Council will have final say in the decision.
“I have yet to come across a Kinsey resident who is for it,” Holman said. “From where I sit, it shouldn’t be a hard decision. It only benefits one person.”
What’s that smell?
The gardens have grown at its current location on Headland Avenue for 25 years. About 14 years ago, Mark Dunning purchased property about 500 feet to the east of the gardens and has used the former Goober drive-in theater as a recycling area for plastics and cardboard for several years.
Now Dunning wants to use the property for a garbage transfer station, essentially a short-term collection area that waste companies use before shipping refuse to landfills. To Holman, a high school classmate of Dunning’s, the idea threatens the gardens’ viability in many ways — and just literally stinks.
“The potential damage to our visitor numbers, especially our outdoor weddings, is great,” he said. “What bride would want an outdoor wedding when a shift of the winds could bring the odor to her special day?”
Holman noted the issue impacts more than Kinsey residents. In three summer months, visitors from 33 different states and three foreign countries signed a registry at the gardens’ offices, he said.
Holman attributes the volume to the rarity of botanical gardens in Alabama and the hundreds of volunteers who have maintained and expanded the facilities in the last quarter-century.
“There are only seven public gardens in the state, and we probably have the smallest staff,” he said. “We have more than 20 pocket gardens. The garden is a reflection of the community since this is mostly done by volunteers. It’s a real slap in the face to put a garbage transfer facility next to it.”
Truck traffic troubles
In addition to the concerns about smell and rodents, Headland Avenue residents decry issues with the traffic the transfer station will attract.
Andy Shelley has lived near the property for 37 years and said it takes three loads from garbage trucks to fill the transfer station before a semi-truck will collect the garbage and carry it to Coffee County.
“There’s a lot of traffic as it is,” he said. “It’s supposed to be a 35 mph zone, but … when police do cross the four-lane (U.S. Highway 431), they write a lot of tickets.”
Linda Welch, whose yard is covered in numerous protest signs, agrees.
“My concern is that road. They can’t control the road as it is,” she said, referencing to multiple levels of government. “What makes them think they are going to be able to after this?”
Welch said she asked if officials planned to widen Headland Avenue or install a stoplight at the intersection of Highway 431 and Headland Avenue. She said officials informed her they had no plans to do so.
Holman said Dunning has expressed that he will install a misting system that should help eliminate concerns about smell, and compared it to a facility in Columbus, Georgia. Holman said he visited the facility with a few town council members only to discover odors permeated the area.
The visit – along with another to a local transfer station – convinced Holman the idea is a poor one. He hopes the visit convinces town officials to reject the rezoning request.
“I hope the people of Kinsey, the zoning board, and the town council wouldn’t do anything to harm the gardens,” he said. “I know Mark Dunning. He’s a good man, but he’s a good man with a bad idea.”
If the idea passes, though, Holman and residents will have few options to combat the problem.
“I can’t control the wind, and Mark can’t control the wind,” Holman said.
If the zoning board affirms the rezone request, officials will conduct a public hearing regarding the request in about a month, according to Kinsey Town Clerk Rachel Exum. The council will then consider the rezoning request in a meeting afterward.
If the zoning board disapproves of the request, it could appear in front of the town’s board of adjustments. The town council would eventually consider the request, Exum noted.
A call to Dunning seeking comment was not returned.