The Midway City Council on Nov. 15 approved an occupational license for a new Family Dollar store after clearing up confusion regarding the store’s opening date.
Gabriele Hartage, assistant zoning administrator, told the council the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission recommended approval. However, Mayor Clemontine Washington and council members asked Family Dollar District Manager Jane Robertson to appear before the council to ask about the store having only five employees and if she understood why the store could not open on the date she planned.
“Most of our stores have five to 10 employees,” Robertson told the council, admitting she had no idea why her store now was allowed to open two weeks earlier or why she had to appear before the council. “Everything regarding licensing happens at the corporate level.”
The council approved the occupational license and a temporary permit for an oversized banner that advertises the store’s grand opening.
“We just wanted you to know why the store could not open earlier,” Washington told Robertson, saying that a sales flyer advertising the store’s earlier opening date was presumptive because approval for the license was pending. “You didn’t have an occupational license.”
Hartage told the Courier it was not unusual for store managers to have to appear before Liberty County city councils before business licenses would be approved. She said it depended on the jurisdiction, noting that Walthourville follows the same procedure.
She added that once the store received approval for the license, Family Dollar management had to go by city hall the next day to pay for it.
Although the council approved the temporary permit for the large banner, Councilman Terry Doyle expressed concerns about code enforcement for oversize banners. He noted that several Midway businesses have oversized banners at their stores, suggesting they were apparently not required to follow the same rules as this new business.
“The code is obviously not being evenly enforced,” he said. “Either we enforce it entirely, or we don’t enforce it at all.”
On Doyle’s recommendation, the council agreed to take a closer look at how the ordinance for oversized banners was being enforced.
Hartage told the Courier that someone called her office to complain about Family Dollar’s banner, so she included the LCPC’s recommendation to approve the temporary permit for the oversize banner with their recommendation to approve the occupational license.
In other business, the council heard from attorney James Coppage, whom the city has contracted with regarding a legal dispute with the Liberty County Development Authority.
Washington said the city contracted with Coppage in October 2011 to resolve outstanding disputes with the county and revise future intergovernmental agreements with the county.
Coppage told the council about an opportunity to meet with members of the LCDA and the Georgia Rural Water Association and recommended the council provide a representative at that meeting. Initially, only councilmembers Melice Gerace and Leverne Clancy were in favor of the city’s participation. Mayor Pro Tem Curtis Roberts and councilman Doyle were opposed.
Coppage explained the city was under no obligation to decide anything at that meeting and said if the dispute goes to mitigation or even litigation, the GRWA was sure to be called as a witness.
Although Doyle still voiced his anger regarding the eight-year dispute with the authority, he agreed the city should send a representative to the meeting.
Coppage said he’d get back with the city with his suggestion for who should be its representative.