A simple request for a home business teaching knitting classes turned into a heated discussion during the Liberty County Board of Commissioners meeting.
In the end, the commissioners denied the request by a 5-2 vote Tuesday.
Candra Trasak filed an application for a Type B Home Occupation permit to teach knitting classes and sell knitting accessories from her home on Long Road.
Long Road is west of Gum Branch, near the Long County line, in an unincorporated area.
Trasak’s request first went before the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission, which recommended approval of the permit with special conditions. The special conditions were: business cannot be conducted after 5 p.m., no more than five customers or class attendees can be on the property at one time, the permit is non-transferable, and any sign installed will comply with the county’s sign ordinance.
At the LCPC meeting, neighbor Norma Koetz said she and several other residents want the neighborhood to remain residential. The knitting classes, she said, would bring in more people whom they don’t know. She also felt it could open the door for other businesses to open in the neighborhood.
Resident Denise Ahlgren spoke in favor of the home business.
“If you’re not familiar with crocheting or knitting, it’s a very quiet business,” Ahlgren said. “Sometimes, you have classes with five people; other times, you’ll just have one person show up.”
At the commissioners meeting, LCPC Planner I Jeremy McAbee presented Trasak’s request and showed commissioners pictures of the home and the availability of parking on her property.
Trasak told the commissioners she wanted to teach knitting class and sell knitting accessories at her home.
Commissioner Connie Thrift asked Trasak if there was a “for sale” sign on her property. Trasak answered no and said she was advertising for a friend who is a Realtor.
Commissioner Marion Stevens asked how many cars would be at the property for classes and how many Trasak owns. She said she and her husband each have a car. Stevens said it could possibly be up to seven cars parked at her home at any time. Trasak pointed out that her husband’s car wouldn’t be there all the time because he works.
The commissioners kept mentioning the possible “for sale” sign, prompting Commissioner Gary Gilliard to ask, “What is the problem with her house being for sale?”
“She’s been there for three years and she’s asking for the permit,” Thrift said. “And as commissioner of that district, I’ve gotten several calls from folks who live on Long Road, permanent residents who are in total disagreement with this. I was wondering if it was for sale because I’ve been by there several times and the sign was there, and then after the LCPC hearing, it disappeared. I just didn’t know if it was for sale. It’s really irrelevant.”
Kenneth Koetz, Norma Koetz’s husband, said neighbors would prefer to keep the traffic low in the area. He said that a short time ago, there was a request from a homeowner next door to Trasak to open a pet-grooming business. That request was denied. He feels that if Trasak’s request were granted, that person could try again to request a pet-grooming business.
Security was another issue. Kenneth Koetz said having fewer vehicles on the street is safer for children playing.
He, too, talked about Trasak’s home being up for sale.
“This house was for sale. I received a flier in the mail. It was on sale for $144,000 and it had a picture of the home and listed the Realtor’s name, number and how to contact him,” Koetz said. “That was perhaps three months ago and, obviously, I threw away that flier. And perhaps it’s irrelevant. To get a license and then sell the house would be a waste of time for this committee."
Koetz added that if the permit is granted, he prefers it be a Type A occupation permit, which allows for there to be business operations at the home but restricts customers from coming to the property.
Neighbor Julian Hodges said he was opposed to having more than two customers at once and a sign at the home.
Thrift said there are about 12 property owners within 200 feet of Trasak’s home, and all oppose the permit.
“That is a well-established neighborhood. A lot are retired with grandchildren there. The traffic there is low. I make a motion that we deny the request,” Thrift said.
Commissioner Justin Frasier tried to find a compromise. He asked if there was any way of removing the allowance for a sign.
“I’m trying to get to what is the real concern. Is it that they’re having the knitting? Is it traffic?” Frasier asked.
Thrift answered that it was the traffic and that a lot of people are in opposition.
Trasak’s supporters muttered among themselves. Gilliard asked Commissioners Chairman Donald Lovette if he would give people who are in favor a chance to speak. Gilliard asked, “Are there no people here?”
Trasak’s friends chimed in, “Oh yeah! We’re here!”
One friend said, “We are the people who want to go there. We want to talk, too. Why can’t we speak?”
Lovette answered that only those who live near the property are allowed to speak. However, he did allow for one person to speak for the group.
A representative of the group came forward and said Trasak once had a knitting business in the space next to Uncommon Grounds in downtown Hinesville. She frequented the store and observed, at most, three people at the business at any given time. Also, Trasak’s driveway is circular, so parking and traffic wouldn’t be a problem. She said that even if a miracle occurred, and everyone started to try knitting, it would just be five cars. Trasak, the friend said, didn’t make enough money to keep the downtown business open, but she still has a desire to teach.
Another neighbor asked why people would drive 10 miles out of town to take knitting classes if they didn’t come to the downtown business.
Trasak’s friends started to get loud again. Frasier still tried to find a compromise.
“We could just come to a compromise. I believe in business, and with all due respect, she’s coming to us and she doesn’t have to,” Frasier said. “We know that because there’s really no way to police that. I’m just being honest. So I think we should take that into consideration. If we’re Liberty County proud, we’re looking at people who want to start businesses.”
Thrift suggested that Trasak visit other people’s homes to teach knitting and rotate around.
Gilliard said Trasak could have a cookout at her house every day and nothing would be said about the traffic. At this, her friends clapped. Bowen mentioned that somebody would eventually complain, and Gilliard said that there’s still nothing anyone can do about it.
A supporter asked to say something and mentioned that others wanted to as well.
“We’re not going to keep doing this,” Lovette said.
“If your property is not being affected, then you don’t have an opportunity to say something,” Thrift told them.
“What about the people who have Tupperware parties?” one said.
As the voices started to rise, Lovette banged the gavel for order and called for the vote.
In the 5-2 vote to deny the request, commissioners Walden, Bowen, Lovette, Thrift and Stevens voted to disapprove, and Gilliard and Frasier voted to approve.