Twenty-five years ago, organizers of what would become the Dothan Area Botanical Gardens had a non-profit status and a vision. And after purchasing a 50-acre tract of farmland on Old Headland Road from a Kinsey family, they had a place to bring that dream to life.
Next door was an old drive-in theatre, the Goober, which opened in 1951 with Abbott and Costello’s “It Ain’t Hay,” which christened the 300-car outdoor movie house. Years later, the Goober became infamous for its racy movies before closing altogether. More recently the property was purchased by Mark Dunning, a Dothan businessman who operated a cardboard recycling center and a sawmill on the site as the Botanical Gardens matured as a respite for nature lovers and a destination for wedding parties, both for photographs and ceremonies and receptions.
Last week, officials of Kinsey, a town of about 2,200 in north Houston County, including the former Goober drive-in site and the botanical gardens, faced an anxious crowd and a weighty question. Dunning, who owns MDI, a large garbage hauling operation, sought to have the former Goober property rezoned to accommodate his plan to create a garbage transfer station at the site. Neighboring residents were outraged. Signs popped up in opposition, including one that read, “We’re trashy enough.” And at the gardens, director William Holman worried about the potential odors, vermin and heavy truck traffic.
On Thursday evening, everyone looked on as members of Kinsey’s board of zoning consider Dunning’s request. It’s a difficult job to weigh someone’s ability to use their property as they please against the concerns of others. It’s impossible to please everyone; someone would leave unhappy.
We commend members of the Kinsey zoning board, which ultimately took no action on the request, allowing it to die unless Dunning decides to appeal. Dunning said he would weigh his options before deciding his next move.
But for now, the board’s non-action protected nearby property owners, including the gardens and Landmark Park, another tourist attraction located nearby.