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McDuffie commission leaves mobile business laws alone

Jarvis McNair will have to figure something else out if he wants to continue operating his Poppa's Barbecue stand in McDuffie County.

Last Tuesday, county commissioners voted not to extend the number of days portable vendors can operate in the county during a year.

Mr. McNair had filed a request with the Planning Board to change the text of the ordinance allowing his and other businesses to operate more than 60 days.

The Planning Board recommended no change. Commissioners agreed, and Chairman Charlie Newton said the main problem with portable vendors is their recent explosion and visibility in the county's main corridors.

"If people from Ford Motor Company come into town and see PVC pipe stands stuck together, that limits our chances of attracting millions and billions of dollars," he said at the meeting.

Residents and business owners on both sides of the issue showed up to share their thoughts with commissioners prior to the vote.

Mike Neal, owner of Neal's Barbecue in Thomson said anything operating 60 days during the year should be considered a business and should rent or buy a place to be a permanent fixture.

"This right here is not fair to everyone else," he said of allowing the mobile units to continue operating.

Teddy Jackson, speaking in favor of extending the number of days mobile businesses can operate, said the man selling flowers on the side of the road does so to earn enough money to buy his medication.

"Are you going to tell a man you can't have open enterprise? We might as well put up a billboard saying don't do business in Thomson," Mr. Jackson said.

Commissioner Darrell Wester said other counties place restrictions on businesses like the flower stand and Poppa's Barbecue.

"McDuffie County is not the only county that limits portable businesses. ...So it wouldn't be fair to put up the billboard saying we don't allow business," Dr. Wester said.

Chairman Newton also took issue with Mr. Jackson's comments.

"Teddy, I hear you on that free enterprise, but (if we allow the text change) we could also set up a billboard that says 'Come to McDuffie County. Invest your money, and we won't protect you,'" he said.

Thomson City Administrator Bob Flanders told commissioners he is concerned about the sudden growth in the number of portable vendors. He said those businesses taking up parking lot space could pose dangers, and he suggested commissioners consider clarifying and making the ordinance more restrictive.

Kay Anderson, whose husband owns a mobile barbecue business, said they aren't able to do business five days a week, but they feel they should be allowed to expand from just Saturdays to both Fridays and Saturdays.

Her husband was injured in an accident, she said, and started the business as a way to get involved in the community again.

"This has given me my husband back," she told commissioners.

Mr. McNair contended that starting a stationary business wasn't an option for him right off the bat. He said starting with a portable business allows business owners to test the water first.

"We have to crawl before we walk," he said. "There may come a time when I want a $250,000 building."

Web posted on Thursday, December 28, 2006

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