It’s a sordid tale of a developer, a subdivision, and a big fat misunderstanding.
When Bill “Bud Terry” set out to build a new neighborhood in late spring, he began winding through the maze of red tape required before constructing anything in Florida. After spending $2000 for the right to apply to build a subdivision in Calhoun County, he met with the local planning board, comprised of county commissioners, and received their stamp of approval. Only two items were pending: a permit from the Northwest Florida Water Management District and another from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Terry agreed to get the permits and was told not to start work on the subdivision until they were in place.
“In the meantime, we wanted to start a house,” Terry tells The County Record. “Since we had 13.3 acres, we were able to do that. I bought the permit for the house and I bought a permit for the driveway.”
After the house was underway, the County Commission reportedly sent Planning Consultant Tony Arrant to investigate. At the June 16 Commission meeting, Attorney Matt Fuqua told commissioners he received an email from Arrant advising Terry had not obtained DEP permits, but was already building a house and a road in the proposed subdivision.
Discussion ensued about sending Terry a letter, then County Administrator Sonny O’Bryan spoke up and told the Board, “What you need to do is write him a letter and send [Building Inspector] Dowling [Parrish] down there with a stop order.”
The board followed O’Bryan’s advice and issued the stop work order, resulting in builder Frank Holley ceasing construction on the house.
Meanwhile, Terry and Holley had no knowledge of Arrant’s site visit or what the whole mess was about. “He said I already started work building roads and a house and I did not have a permit. They didn’t call and ask me. Jimmy Hand is my engineer and he had been in the hospital, but it made it a mute point because we hadn’t started work on the subdivision,” Terry emphasizes, stating he was only building one house with a driveway - not multiple homes and no roads - which he says was completely legal since he had the required permits to do that. In fact, the home was for the builder’s daughter; Holley owns the land, he’s building the house on the site.
But Terry was unable to explain any of this at the June 16 meeting. Why? Because he had no notice that his building project was on the agenda. He learned the matter had been discussed after receiving phone calls from radio listeners who heard Commission Chairman Dan Wyrick being interviewed by Harry Hagan of WYBT/WPHK.
At the following meeting last Tuesday, July 7, Terry and his lawyer, Jonna Bowman, appeared and explained that the so-called road was, in fact, a driveway and he had all the permits in place to build that house.
After discussion, the board seemed to have a clearer picture of what Terry and Holley are doing - building one house until the subdivision receives final approval. However, Commission Chairman Dan Wyrick questioned Terry about advertising the proposed subdivision.
“That’s not against the law,” Terry responded. “That’s none of your business.”
Wyrick countered, “It is my business.”
Bowman, Terry’s attorney, then explained that advance advertising is done to determine if there is any interest in the subdivision before investing any money in the project.
But Terry’s main concern was the potential damage to his reputation after the radio interview that resulted in a dozen calls questioning his actions. “Did you take the time to call me and ask me [what was going on]? All of this could have been avoided, but you’ve been on the radio for two weeks and I’ve been getting slammed.”
When Terry raised his voice during the discussion, Chairman Wyrick told him, “Nobody here has a problem hearing.”
Terry stated that he did and then asked his attorney to speak for him.
“What you say here and on the radio has a huge impact,” she remarked. “...the problem is if there’s inaccurate information it makes it sound like if somebody buys a house from this man, there’s going to be legal problems. If that were true, people should know. But if not, that’s a problem.”
Wyrick thanked Bowman for her comments and Terry stated that he was not satisfied.
“Thank you,” Wyrick responded.
When Terry continued asking for some resolution, Wyrick motioned for the bailiff to remove him from the meeting. The bailiff stood by as the conversation continued. “I want to know what you’re going to do?” Terry asked. “You’ve trashed my name. Are you going to get on the radio and say you’re sorry?”
Wyrick replied, “You’ve answered our questions and we’ll put it on the radio.
Bowman stressed that it needs to be clear that Terry did nothing wrong.
At meeting’s end, Terry was not satisfied, feeling he was dismissed without any real resolution. “I’m planning legal action,” he told The County Record.