I had hoped to write a letter this week on the current situation in Washington regarding the lies, trickery, and deceit that have been brought out in the recent days. However, a situation much closer to home that is very important to the citizens of Bulloch County is now on my mind and I am obligated to respond.
On Jan. 23, Phil Boyum wrote about a closure of two local businesses for zoning infractions. One was “Club Zone” and the other was “The Statesboro Flea Market.” Christian Lentz, a professional planner for the city of Statesboro quoted sections 1600 – 1602 for the closings.
I am unable to comment on the situation at “Club Zone” as I am not aware of the variance requirements that Mr. Roberson was given that needed fixing. However, I am very aware of the situation at the Statesboro Flea Market and it is to that business that this letter is aimed.
Mr. Jerry Jennings and his wife spent a great deal of money and personal time and effort to give the citizens of Statesboro and the surrounding communities a place to buy and sell items of varying quality and expense in a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable atmosphere. There were, at the time of the closing, about 50 vendors that were selling their wares at the market. Let me take a look at the “Notice of Violation” that caused the flea market to be closed.
Some 18 months ago, when the flea market was in the first beginning stages, the members of the code compliance division of Statesboro allowed for the market to open even though the parking lot was still non-existent and the front and sides were more mud than anything. In the ensuing months, there has been a great deal of improvement. At this writing, the front of the building has been completely paved with blacktop, there are 40 marked (lined) parking spaces, and landscaping and cultural implements have been tastefully placed to add to the hometown quality of the market.
On the right side of the building, crush and run has been spread and maintained and 6 paved and marked parking spaces have been installed at the side door for handicapped parking; which is completely in compliance with OCGA (Official Code of Georgia/Annotated) guidelines.
What concerns me is that next door to the flea market is a long-standing business that has no paved parking and has been in business for many years. I can produce several other businesses in the city limits that also have no paving and will do so at the next City Council meeting and allow the members to explain when those businesses will be closed.
I imagine that, as council member Travis Chance has stated; “the council is not trying to single out any one particular business but instead trying to make sure all license holders and applicants are treated equally…If we don't enforce (city ordinances), then it eats away at the integrity of the whole planning system," Chance said. "We've got a process; we've got steps we have to take to protect property values and potential investors - to get some type of order."
If Mr. Chance stands behind this statement, then that would mean at least – as of Tuesday afternoon on January 26th – five additional businesses would need to be closed. I’ll have a full list by the time the council meets.
I do not believe that the purpose of the city council is to put hard working people out of a job, which is what happened to over 50 men and women on Friday when the “Notice of Violation” was handed to Mrs. Jennings. If the people that are the voters of Statesboro feel that the power of the office has caused a few to dictate to the many even when the use of the property, in the case of the Statesboro Flea Market was used as the zoning ordinance was called for, then perhaps it is time to be heard.
So often the issues of abuse that we hear about are in Washington and out of our control. I suggest that you join others and me and be at the next council meeting. I look forward to seeing you there.