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Dibrell landowners agree to limit occupants on land
Land issue.jpg
Assistant district attorney Matthew Colvard, right, goes over stipulations of the agreement reached with Sherry Rankhorn and John Grissom for their 17 acres on Bluff Springs Road in the Dibrell area.

Property owners in the Dibrell area have reached an agreement with the courts to limit the number of people on their land after more than 20 official complaints were received over the past 14 months.

John Anthony Grissom and Sherry Rankhorn answered a civil summons to appear in front of Judge Bart Stanley on Tuesday and signed off on a list of stipulations surrounding their 17 acres on Bluff Springs Road.

Most notably, Grissom and Rankhorn agreed to have only two other people on the property, his girlfriend and her daughter. No one else is allowed.

In addition, the two are to work toward getting a septic system in place along with electricity in the next 30 days. They are also to clean up the area in general, according to the agreement.

“We’re not here to take this man’s land, but when it’s something that affects an entire community, something must be done about it,” said District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis. “You can’t be an overall nuisance. That infringes on other people’s rights.”

Around 15 nearby residents showed up in court Tuesday wanting action to be taken on what they call a free campground or commune where drug activity is rampant. An investigation by the District Attorney’s Office determined Grissom and Rankhorn were aware of illegal activity taking place on their property and did nothing to stop it.

“We have nothing against poor people. This is a crime issue,” said nearby resident Brian Carr. “This could happen in any community where an empty plot of land is overrun with drugs and criminals. Some of us have children and we don’t feel comfortable about this at all.”

Among complaints noted by investigator Jackie Matheny Jr. of the District Attorney’s Office that have been recorded since October 2020 are complaints of physical fights, drug activity, trespassing, harassment, and a structure fire.

Said Charles and Melissa Pinegar in their written complaint to the court: “There is all kinds of traffic at all hours of the night. They have trash all over the place. They fight over there at all hours of the night.”

Said Randy Griffith, “There’s a constant stream of vehicles coming in and out of this property all hours during the day and night. There are not restrooms or septic systems and human feces is all over the place and running into the stream system.”

Said Jennifer McQuiddy and Todd Butler in their complaint: “Numerous guys have tried to fight with us. Their dogs run loose and create havoc. There are at least eight dogs that run free and we are scared of them. There are so many fights and disturbances at this property we have almost given up.”

In talking to the Standard on Tuesday after signing his agreement with the courts, Mr. Grissom said every story has two sides and he says he has worked to clean up the property. Specifically, he says he has removed an old Winnebago, an old pickup, and an old camper.

“I don’t want to be a bad neighbor,” said Grissom. “I don’t want to live with no electricity, no toilet and no plumbing, but that’s where I am right now. I’ve been letting people stay there who don’t have any other place to go. They’d throw up a tent and they’ve been staying there. I don’t go around and ask if they’re drug and alcohol-free.”

Grissom says there has been as many as 18 people living on his property.

“Being a good neighbor goes both ways,” said Grissom. “The guy next to me has two giant spotlights that he has pointed at my property 24-7. How is that OK?”

Getting electricity to the property will help the noise issue since the current sources of power are generators which are loud and are said to run all night long. Limiting visitors to just four people is also seen as a plus by nearby residents because of the high volume of traffic around the clock.

“I think this agreement may be a way to help him,” said Zavogiannis of Grissom. “If he’s been having a hard time saying no to people who want to stay there, this gives him a reason why they can’t stay.”

Judge Stanley accepted the terms of the agreement and set April 12 as a review date for the parties to return to court so he can be informed of the progress.