Discussions among the town of Summerfield's officials are getting heated as they face a renewed threat of de-annexation by the state general assembly in connection to a controversial development.

The town council approved a zoning change that would allow for mixed-use housing last year after a proposal by developer David Couch to build on more than 900 acres of land he owns was initially denied. The decision came after the general assembly proposed a bill to de-annex the land to Guilford County.

But talks between the town and Couch have seemingly all but ended since then. The Town Council voted four to one in an emergency meeting on Thursday to hire a public relations firm after state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger again signaled his support for de-annexation.

Councilmember John Doggett voted against the move.

"I really believe that Berger's holding all the chips," he said. "And I don't think spending money on a public relations firm is money well spent for us right now."

The decision comes as the town faces its own headwinds. The meeting Thursday saw tension between Mayor Tim Sessoms and council members reach a boiling point. And in February, the council voted to not renew Summerfield Town Manager Scott Whitaker's contract.

A week after the decision, Town Attorney Bob Hornik informed the council he was resigning from his position.

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