Blue Cove Hideaway has not been permanently shut down...yet

Blue Cove Hideaway has not been permanently shut down...yet

Judge's permanent closure of Blue Cove Hideaway challenged

August 14th, 2018 by Ben Benton in Breaking News

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The popular but troubled Blue Cove Hideaway camp in McMinn County, Tennessee, has been ordered permanently closed by a judge, but the owners' attorney is crying foul.

The property on County Road 116 contains an old rock quarry where alleged underage drinking and illegal drug use have occurred as well as two drownings have happened in recent years, according to court records and previous Times Free Press reports.

McMinn County Circuit Court Judge Michael Sharp issued the order after a July 27 bench trial, records state.

In the bench trial, state prosecutors presented testimony about numerous law enforcement calls to the property alleging underage drinking, illegal drug use and visits from health department officials and others who found the property's owners, Charles and Enola G. Womac, were operating a camp without a valid license and food service without a valid permit, the order states. There was also testimony about an encounter with sheriff's deputies that landed Charles Womac behind bars in June.

Sharp ordered Blue Cove Hideaway permanently closed, but the Womacs' attorney says nothing is final.

Document: Judge's Order

State of Tennessee, ex rel. Stephen D. Crump, District Attorney General for McMinn County, petitioner vs. The Blue Cove Hideaway and Charles Womac and Enola G. Womac, respondents.

Knoxville lawyer Van Irion said the description of Sharp's order as a permanent closure is incorrect because there is still another step in procedure in which the matter goes to trial.

Irion said the bench trial that led to the current order "was just about the preliminary injunction order" and was not the final word on the matter. Sharp's order does not contain any response from the Womacs, only testimony from state witnesses.

"There still has to be a trial on the matter. That's going to have to become part of the process at this point," Irion said.

"The trial will decide the same issues but we have to have the opportunity to do some discovery and I believe there's a jury requirement here," Irion said. The Tennessee Supreme Court defines "discovery" as "a pretrial proceeding where a party to an action may be informed of the facts known by other parties or witnesses."

The Womacs' property has been the subject of numerous law enforcement visits and Charles Womac was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, resisting stop, frisk and halt orders and false imprisonment, according to records and previous reports.

The charges stem from an incident involving two deputies who came to the property and discovered some campers who were using suspected marijuana, according to testimony. Charles Womac demanded the deputies leave the property and threatened to lock them inside the property if they didn't. Then he did so, holding the deputies for about 30 minutes before he reopened the gates and freed the officers.

In other state testimony, several McMinn County deputies testified about calls to the property between 2015 and May 2018 regarding alleged drinking and drug use by minors and operation of a food service without a permit, the order states.

Charles Womac is also accused in the order of refusing to cooperate with a state health department official who found that the camp, besides lacking a business license or food service permit, lacked the facilities needed to be permitted as an organized camp or food service operation that comprised "several current environmental violations," the order states.

When a health department employee delivered an order closing up his food service operation, court records state that Charles Womac tore up the order and threw it on the ground at the man's feet and threatened to have his car towed if he didn't leave.

Previous temporary closure orders were issued in 2015, 2017 and May 2018, according the records, yet the Womacs continued to operate the camp. The May order is the one Irion contends was the subject of Sharp's Aug. 8 order.

In the order, Sharp pointed to the Womacs' continued operation of the business in violation of previous closure orders, saying Blue Cove Hideaway is a "public nuisance, detrimental to the public welfare and safety."

"[T]he court issues a permanent injunction enjoining Charles Womac and Enola G. Womac from owning, operating and permitting any further nuisance at the property," Sharp's order states.

The permanence of the order remains to be seen if Irion's contention that a trial is still in the future.

As far as 10th Judicial District Assistant District Attorney Matt Dunn is concerned, the state stands behind the judge's order.

"I have a permanent injunction and we're operating in light of that," Dunn said Tuesday.

Sharp was in court Monday and Tuesday and didn't return a call seeking comment.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.


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