Washington County planning director resigns

FAYETTEVILLE -- Washington County Planning Director Jim Kimbrough has resigned effective April 6.

"The planning staff is a very bright and committed group that will do exceedingly well going forward," Kimbrough said.

Planning Director

Washington County’s planning director oversees the Planning Department, floodplain permits, conditional use permits, zoning questions, variances, high-impact large scale development plans and long-term planning.

Source: Washington County

Staff referred questions about the resignation to Kimbrough, who said he felt confident his employees can and will continue county work without problems. He plans to return to doing projects on farmland he owns.

Kimbrough retired from Tyson Foods in 2012 before taking the director job. Kimbrough earned $52,469 as director, according to the county budget.

Kimbrough submitted his resignation to the Human Resources office Monday, but the letter wasn't available Thursday evening, Chief of Staff Carl Gales said.

There are no immediate plans to fill Kimbrough's position, staff said. Kimbrough said he didn't know of any candidates for the director position.

County Judge Joseph Wood didn't return a phone message left on his cell phone seeking comment Thursday night.

Kimbrough's resignation comes just as a Washington County Circuit Court judge is poised to rule on a lawsuit linked to how Wood handled hiring and firing department heads, including Kimbrough's position, last year.

Wood hired Kimbrough after Wood was sworn in as the new county judge in January 2017. In December 2016, Wood terminated former Planning Director Juliet Richey and three other employees and replaced them with new hires. Kimbrough was hired to replace Richey.

A lawsuit brought by a former employee claims Wood didn't follow county policy, and the money paid to the new employees should be returned to taxpayers, according to the class-action lawsuit. Kimbrough is among employees Wood hired listed in the lawsuit.

A judge is expected to rule on the issue soon, attorneys say.

Justices of the peace have been eyeing planning issues in the wake of several lawsuits.

Terry Presley sued the county and Wood last year and asked a circuit judge to overturn the Quorum Court's decision denying a permit for a wedding barn and event center on 7 acres at 5241 Shaeffer Road. Presley and his sister, Vickie Presley Hassell, want to build a 6,900-square-foot center, but neighboring property owners protested strongly.

The Quorum Court agreed with neighbors and denied the permit, but a judge overturned that decision last week. Presley's proposed wedding venue is moving forward, Senior Planner Nathan Crouch said.

Two other cases involving planning issues are pending.

Neighbors filed a lawsuit in January to overturn the Quorum Court's approval of a dog kennel at 2176 N. Sunshine Road, just west of Fayetteville. An appeal is also underway after the Quorum Court denied a permit for a proposed marijuana manufacturing facility near Lincoln.

NW News on 03/30/2018