In the past year, Hay has gone nuclear. Or more apropos, he’s gone stink bomb. Nowadays, what better way to tarnish a community’s image than to have a good old-fashioned cross burning? And to mark the territory, throw in a Confederate flag, a Klan flag and even a swastika.
Recently, Mr. Hay emailed the AJC and said a First Amendment showdown was occurring in Milton. Neighbors were stealing flags and even flag poles, he alleged, “The story behind this feud is unbelievable. My goal is to make peace between the Loyal White Knights and the Six Hills HOA. The Klan just wants to enjoy their new religious retreat.”
Blessed are the peacemakers. But we looked into the matter before nominating him for one of those prestigious reconciliation awards.
Ten years ago, a group of investors bought the rolling 24-acre lot and were set to build 15 luxury homes. But the Fulton County board of zoning appeals turned down construction of a road to provide access to the property. The 50-foot frontage along Owens Lake Road was not wide enough to cut a road. A judge later agreed.
The owners put chickens on the property to tweak the neighbors, but the Great Recession hit and the bank got the land. Enter Hay, who, according to records, bought the property for $900,000, or $37,500 an acre, a relative bargain. Chicken coops in Milton go for more than that. Hay got the land cheap, city officials say, because it is understood you can’t build a bunch of homes on it.
By then, the area had become the city of Milton, with strict and fussy local officials. Hay’s request was again, denied but he is more resourceful than the previous owners when it comes to the game of irritation.
“In my opinion, he’s a bully and trying to bully people into letting him build there,” said Joan Wunderle, who lives next door to the never-built access road. She said Hay once told her, “You’re going to beg me to let me build houses there.”
Hay, who has since moved from the area, didn't seem to want to talk but he said in texts that he is the one being threatened, both legally and physically.
Remember, being a peacemaker is hard.
Wunderle seems resigned to the insanity next door. She spoke of Hay bringing in a crew of pigs to the property but having to remove them because of city code. Then he sent out letters vowing to have a Christian group bring in parolees to tend chickens, goats and cattle. And he’d have to clear the land to grow organic produce.
Wunderle said for four months a logging truck parked near her window and the driver was instructed to crank it up early each morning.
And then last year, came the flags. And the Klan.
“I’ve got to hand it to him on this flag thing; but I can’t figure out why the Klan wants to be his flunky,” said Wunderle, who tried unsuccessfully to sell her 5,200-square foot home.
Prospective buyers saw the flags and wondered if they were going to live near Himmler. Meanwhile, Wunderele doubts people in million-dollar homes would jeopardize their reputations by jumping a fence, trespassing and committing the crime of flag theft.
Milton’s Police Chief Steven Krokoff said neither Hay nor the Klan have filed reports of stolen flags.
Still, Roy Pemberton, the state grand dragon of the Loyal White Knights of the KKK, complained that “every time we put one up, it comes down.”
Pemberton says Hay approached him last year to rent him the land. And he likes it just fine.
“We go out there, it’s open for our members to camp out, to target practice, to have our meetings because we’re a religious organization,” the said.
Pemberton said members need to clear the land for a possible cross "lighting," he said. They don't burn crosses, he said, they light 'em.
“If we lit a 30-foot cross up there you could see it for miles and miles,” he said. “It’d be a beautiful sight.”
Hay’s end game is abundantly clear in e-mails he sent recently. He threatened to bring in neo-Nazis next to “set up a mini ‘concentration camp’ style area at our entrance to guarantee the safety of their flags and signs.”
Hay claims the feud has hurt property values, but “the good news is your property values will rebound when my land sells and the feud ends.”
The price for peace? Two million bucks.
The neighborhood “needs a financial ‘white knight,’ ” he wrote.
His nomination for the Nobel Prize is in the mail.