A local business owner said she is thinking about suing the City because of the way they’ve treated her business when compared to others. Rustic Design Home Market co-owner Shelby Lee said she has spoken with an attorney and is considering the lawsuit. She said an event held at her business was inappropriately shut down Feb. 20, by law enforcement officers under the direction of City Manager Kenneth Howard.
Howard said the City received a complaint and shut down the event for safety reasons. However, Lee said she called the planning office prior to her event asking if she needed a special permit. She said she was told no because she is already zoned C-3.
Lee met with Howard and City attorney Linnie Darden questioning why she was shut down.
Lee said she was told by Howard she needed a Temporary Use Permit, but when she questioned planning and permitting office employees, they said this type of permit had never been issued. Audio recordings obtained by the Courier confirms that City employees said they had never issued one.
On March 12, the Courier field an open records request and found that the only Temporary Use Permit issued in the past three years was on March 11, 2021, when Lee applied for one for her spring sale held on March 26 and March 27.
Lee said city employees had to create the permit because it didn’t exist before. She questioned how she could be in violation of a permit that didn’t exist.
As a result of the miss-communications, the City decided to implement a new flea market ordinance and heard the first draft on March 18. The Mayor and council had a second review of the proposed flea market ordinance during the April 1 meeting.
During this ordeal Lee and the Courier questioned why Rustic Designs event was shut down but events like the Hinesville Cars and Coffee Car Show were allowed to continue. It appears the City was unaware the event had been taking place without any permitting. It also appears the City attempted to stop the show which was eventually held March 27.
“As some of you are aware and some not, we want to bring to your attention that the Hinesville City Manager, Kenneth Howard has issued what we feel is an unjustified order to cease Cars and Coffee,” read the post on their Facebook Page. “The city manager has refused to speak to us directly on the matter only citing through his subordinates there will be no gathering.”
However at the City Council meeting it seems that a quick call to the Mayor resolved the issues.
“Last Thursday night one of my best friends called me up fussing about a car show,” Mayor Brown said. The caller was the father of the organizer of the monthly cars show and asked what could be done to keep the show going.
The Mayor said Howard and other city officials quickly determined the event did require a permit.
“But we didn’t have one,” Mayor Brown said. “So they had to sit down and create a permit.” The mayor said by the end of day Friday they had written up a permit and the car show was a go.
This infuriated Lee who said they could have done the same for her. She sent a lengthy letter to City officials inquiring about the matter but has yet to hear a reply.
“I guess because I don’t have a well-known Daddy,” Lee said.
The Courier will continue to follow this matter as it unfolds.