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Zoning issue on garage to proceed for ‘fairness to everyone’

Updated, 7:45 a.m. Feb.

Laurens, S.C. – Concerning a controversial zoning issue

decision, Laurens City Council opted Tuesday night to go with an “objective opinion” and voted unanimously to allow a circuit court judge to rule on a downtown Laurens business’ plan to build a garage yards from the Historic Square.

“The vote was unanimous, and now the focus is on ensuing fairness to everyone,” said Mayor Nathan Senn after an executive session which followed the regular February meeting of Laurens City Council.
The executive session had been described in the agenda as “to receive legal advice regarding purchase of Real Estate and the appeal of Dominick Motors, Inc. – Building Permit.”
According to City Manager Gary Coleman late last week, the meeting would include an executive session so that council could get advice from the city’s legal council Tommy Thompson regarding the city’s zoning laws and the submitted  plan by business owner Jamie Dominick. Dominick  said last week he didn’t want to comment since the matter was under legal counsel.
Based on plans submitted, the plan had been denied based on several factors.  One factor was that the new building was significantly larger, rather than smaller, than his existing structure. Zoned B-2 in 1995 and updated 15 years ago, the ordinance prohibits a garage that close to the Square “for automotive work” but doesn’t specify a garage for other purposes. While Dominick didn’t want to go on record for most comments, he did say last week that it wasn’t the same specific lot so he and his attorney felt that didn’t apply.
The city’s recently appointed  Zoning Board of Appeals had overturned the ruling in a hearing two weeks ago, siding with Dominick.
“What we decided was that the original application that he filled out, he did not fill out correctly,” said Appeals Board Chair Suzanne Lowry late last week. “So at face value (the zoning director’s)  opinion was correct. He did indicate it would be a garage,” she said.
But after hearing Dominick’s attorney’s argument, the appeals board determined “he can sell or replace tires but no automotive work.”
Lowry said his used car lot was “grandfathered in,” but there was an issue of the garage being larger than allowed for an accessory building but Dominick’s attorney explained that because the property, though adjacent to his current lot, is a separate lot and so it would be allowed under the current ordinance.
“But it’s right at the Square so if he doesn’t conform it will be obvious,” Lowry added, explaining it can not be for an expansion of car sales or “automotive work.”
Coleman said the city’s interpretation differed, and that is why council planned to discuss the matter in executive session.
Following the executive session council member Johnny Kelly made the motion to appeal to circuit court and it was seconded by several council members before the unanimous vote.
“We will proceed,” said Mayor Nathan Senn.
With the decision, Senn said following the meeting, “we are relying on the expertise of the judiciary” in determining whether Dominick’s submitted plan does in fact meet zoning regulation or does not.
Coleman said it would be filed by the end of the week, and that council had opted to proceed to circuit court in order to obtain an opinion by an objective source.
For more on the meeting, see next week’s issue of the Laurens County Advertiser.

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