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A wedding party enters the barn at Mountain Cove Farms in this 2015 photo.

ROCK SPRING, Ga. — Who is trying to buy Mountain Cove Farms, exactly?

In November, a woman offered to lease Walker County's resort and wedding venue for $2,000 per month. Then on Dec. 5 she sent a letter to the county's development authority upping the offer to $4,000 per month. During a meeting Wednesday, authority members said they would consider the new proposal at a later date.

The woman, Lea Kapherr, was not at the meeting. She said she didn't know it was going to happen and she hadn't made the second offer, despite her name appearing at the bottom of it.

"I don't want any part of this," Kapherr said Thursday. "I haven't had any more dealings with this, to be honest with you."

Kapherr first came to the authority as a representative of The Cove Resorts, a new company forming to run Mountain Cove Farms. On Thursday, Kapherr said other people in the company might still be operating, using her name as a front. She declined to say who else was involved in The Cove Resorts.

However, Kapherr is loosely tied to Les Coffey, a controversial figure who is legally banned from Walker County. Coffey is a long-time opponent of outgoing county Commissioner Bebe Heiskell. He recently has been critical of Heiskell's replacement, Shannon Whitfield.

Coffey said Thursday he has nothing to do with any lease of Mountain Cove Farms.

"I'm not the one," he said. "I'm not really behind it."

Kapherr runs a company that rents furniture and decorations to brides and grooms. In her November proposal, she told authority members she wanted to run an actual wedding venue.

During the Nov. 22 meeting, authority chairman Robert Wardlaw said he didn't think the offer was strong enough. He believes the authority can lease the historic, 300-acre property in McClemore Cove for $10,000 per month, easy. He also didn't feel comfortable making a decision one month before Whitfield replaces Heiskell.

Kapherr later said the meeting felt heated and she felt small-town politics at work. She decided to step back from the offer and focus on her current business.

But the very next day, county attorney Don Oliver emailed authority members to say they would see a new offer from The Cove Resort. When it arrived, the second proposal was signed "Leah Kapherr," misspelling the supposed author's first name.

The offer included a letter criticizing Whitfield. The author — whoever it might be — said Whitfield attended the Nov. 22 meeting with "many others in suits."

"They presented themselves like a pack of wolves or bullies that had no agenda other than to interfere with the meeting and intimidate me," the letter states.

Coffey for years has criticized public officials in Northwest Georgia on Facebook pages. He also claimed to be one of the authors behind The LaFayette Underground, a blog that has been a thorn in the side of many area elected leaders. During this year's campaign, he targeted both Whitfield and Heiskell.

Coffey used to own Peerless Woolen Mill in Rossville. But in November 2010, police say, he hired an employee to throw chunks of concrete into a sewage system that flows under the mill. The concrete chunks caused the system to flood, damaging a road, a drainage system and the city's fire department.

Coffey pleaded no contest to criminal charges and accepted punishment: banishment for seven years from Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade and Walker counties.

Kapherr's current husband and Coffey's current wife used to be married, meaning the two share step-grandchildren.

"I don't have anything to do with them," Coffey said Thursday night of the Kapherrs.

Meanwhile, authority members voted Wednesday to seek other proposals for Mountain Cove Farms. Wardlaw said afterward he wasn't counting Kapherr's offer out, still thinking she wrote it. The authority simply wanted to see if other offers were out there.

Rock City CEO Bill Chapin has emailed Wardlaw to say the company is interested. Rock City President Susan Harris attended Wednesday's meeting but did not speak publicly. A spokeswoman for Rock City said executives are waiting to see what kind of partnership the authority has in mind before they make another move.

Walker County bought Mountain Cove Farms in 2008 for about $2.2 million. The property includes stables, cabins, a barn and a house built before the Civil War.

The farm is at the southern tip of McClemore Cove, squeezed between Lookout and Pigeon mountains. Cherokee Indians lived there until their removal in 1838.

Attorney William Dougherty acquired rights to what would become Mountain Cove Farms through the Cherokee Land Lottery in 1832, and built a two-story stone house that still stands.

In 2015, when the development authority issued a $15 million bond on behalf of the county, Heiskell authorized Mountain Cove Farms as collateral. Heiskell needed the bond to pay for an industrial park, as well as to pay back debts.

During Wednesday's authority meeting, Heiskell said she thought Kapherr's offer would be good for the county since Mountain Cove Farms has been such a burden. From 2009-14, financial records show, Walker County lost $1.4 million on the project.

"I saw it as a way to get the county out from under the load of supporting the Cove," Heiskell said. "I thought it was a pretty good idea."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.

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