Sign at corner gets noticed

Friday, February 25, 2011

The motive behind a sign at the northeast corner of Lewisburg's public square is frustration with - as the property owner sees it - government obstruction to legitimate business enterprise.

As a result, Michael Farrar is offering advice by posting a sign. It says, "Don't trust city leaders' lies. Stand up now." Farrar operates his bail bonding business in the old county jail and sheriff's office on First Avenue and Church Street.

Establishing the bonding company was a struggle over that business' signs facing the jail door where suspects and their relatives enter and leave that part of the sheriff's building. Opposition to that ended up in court. Farrar won.

Mayor Barbara Woods saw the protest sign, went to Farrar's office to speak with him and left word with his associate that she'd come by. They've not spoken. She noted problems for the Sisters Three restaurant are state issues and she can't overcome that.

There's a separate issue between the most recent restaurant business tenant, Kim Wing, whose Sisters Three restaurant ran afoul of state restaurant inspectors over whether a second restroom could be upstairs. Cleanliness wasn't the issue.

"It was a voluntary and temporary closure, until the issue with the state is resolved," Farrar said of Wing's business in his building.

So, Farrar's sign "has nothing to do with the café," he said. "It just seems as though every time I want to do something ... I go to the proper agency, I do what they want and problems come up."

Farrar has complained about recurring visits from building codes inspectors, saying: they told him what to do; he did it; and then there are recurring visits, more directives, costs and still another round of more requirements and additional costs threatening the viability of a new business. He started the Corner Café and has rented the facility to other operators.

Then he opened a game room on the south side of the square. After he opened, he was advised of a city ordinance about how and whether children could be customers there.

There have been attempts to open a tattoo parlor.

The city "denied a business license when it was legal and then later they're in a meeting to change the rules to make it illegal," he said.

"I sent them a six-page letter detailing everything and I never got a response," he said.

Farrar's complaints - and quite possibly the letter - are issues for a codes official and currently the city has no codes officer, nor does it have a stormwater director. People in those and other positions at City Hall have been changing.

"They're putting people in the positions who aren't qualified to do the job," Farrar said.

"While researching this," he continued, "I've found other situations."

He wishes city leaders would "stop being so sneaky about their business," and he's come to the conclusion that, "Just because you're not from here, you're not welcome...

"The more we investigate, the dirtier it looks," he said Wednesday.

Thursday afternoon, the city's Board of Zoning Appeals was to meet in City Hall to consider "Use Approval for Game Room and Arcade at 450 2nd Ave. North," according to a notice issued by Greg Lowe, the city's economic developer who continues to help the city with codes and stormwater issues.

Asked if Farrar's sign might be discussed during a non-voting meeting of the council after the BZA meeting, the mayor said, "I don't know. It might come up. I don't plan to bring it up."