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Subdivision wants Lynyrd Skynyrd marker removed from Hell House lot


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I got some disturbing news last Saturday when the wife of Hell House property owner got a threatening letter from a lawyer who said he represented the residents of Edgewater Landing in Green Cove Springs.

Bob Kealing and I installed a marker on the lot at Peter’s Creek at the same spot where Lynyrd Skynyrd crafted most of their iconic Southern Rock hits.

A group of residents, however, said the sign violated the homeowner’s association rules. The threatening letter ordered us to take the sign down.

Just when we didn’t think it couldn’t get any worse for the legacy of the greatest band I’ve ever known, the next day we learned guitarist Gary Rossington, the last of the founding member of the iconic band, had died.

I can only think some bullies from Edgewater Landing must be happy.

Bob and I were careful to place the sign near the shore of Peter’s Creek. One of the complaints from residents was they didn’t want strangers driving through their neighborhood. That’s fair.

Oddly enough, most of the streets in the development were associated with Lynyrd Skynyrd, like Fred Bird Loop, Tuesday Cove and Noble Court. For those who aren’t entrenched in Lynyrd Skynyrd history – I’ve been at 63 of the band’s concerts, and all at different venues – Noble refers to the band’s original name, The Noble Five. That’s when the band consisted of Ronnie Van Zant, Garry Rossington, Allen Collins, Larry Junstrom and Bob Burns.

We were careful to place the sign at the creek, which is accessible to the public. The sign also faces the creek, not the subdivision. No matter what the residents of Edgewater Landing believe, they don’t own the creek.

I remember Jax Raceways near Jacksonville International Airport. It opened in 1948. Houses started popping up 40 years later in the area, and residents were quick to complain about the noise. Although they moved near a speedway that was there long before them, they argued loud enough and long enough the track eventually closed in 2004.

The same can be said about people who buy houses near an airport, then complain about the noise.

Hell House was rocking more than 40 years before the first house was built off County Road 209. No matter how many hot tubs or golf carts are in the gated community, progress will never pave over the legacy of the piece of land where “Free Bird,” “Simple Man” and “Sweet Home Alabama” were written. We were careful to honor the work and legacy of wonderfully gifted musicians. We did not create a tourist stop. The sign can’t be seen from the street. It can only be seen from the creek, which Edgewater Landing doesn’t control.

We tried to respect the privacy of the subdivision’s residents. We never encouraged anyone to drive through their community. Apparently, that wasn’t good enough.

Many of us are ready for a fight. That’s what Ronnie Van Zant would have done. Never underestimate the resolve of the Skynyrd Nation.

But the ultimate decision will come from the owner of the lot. Adam Hartle’s nonprofit foundation bought it to preserve history. At 43, he died unexpectedly of a heart attack four months ago. Now a lawyer wants to torment a grieving widow and her family. Shameful.

When I moved from St. Johns County, I rented a condominium for a year while I searched for a house to buy. I considered Edgewater Landing. I’m glad I decided to buy elsewhere. Who wants a pompous neighbor anyway?