Yet, earlier this year, Mr. Holtzman demanded a bench decision from the very same Town Council to permit him to operate a newly purchased single family home as two units stating that "after purchasing the property, he found it not feasible to rent out to a single family. The Council was smart enough to send the request to the Planning Commission, who then was able to find a way "legally" to permit Mr. Holtzman's request. The new code implemented an "Overlay District" whereby the Town Council can permit, by special use, the conversion of a single family dwelling into a multi-unit occupancy. Of course, such a request is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Thus, exempting businesses is not permissible, nor is permitting extensions of time to meet requirements, but re-writing codes to benefit select businesses is?
There are those in the community who say "Just pave the parking lot - we had to." To be sure, many have been required to pave their lots. However, many of those businesses were either in operation at the time the code was enforced, or given ample time to get their doors open and make a profit before being required to do so.
Furthermore, there are businesses in the community that have NOT been required to pave their lots. The Council would likely state that those businesses have "on street" parking. Well, SO DO WE!
The premise of our lawsuit is about Fairness - ironically, this is the premise for which Councilman Todd Holtzman gave as to why we needed to pave our lot - as well as common sense.
Leadership of small towns in particular need to consider what it means to start a business in the current economy. It's one thing to say you want small businesses to succeed. It's quite another to put that into action through incentives, relaxation of overbearing regulations that create undue hardships, and even promotion of businesses.
Developments take time. Redevelopments can take longer. As anyone who has started something from the ground up can attest to, plans rarely go as well as planned. We make no excuses for our current circumstances, but the Town of Mount Jackson has to determine whether they really want a vibrant downtown, or just pretty sidewalks.
The Town of Mount Jackson is sitting on $100,000 in Economic Development Authority Funds alone, not to mention $3M in cash reserves. The guidelines permit them to give low interest loans, and even grants, up to $25,000. If paved lots are more important than small business and farmers', then why have we not been given even a grant to pave our lot?! The tax revenue generated off our project will, eventually, pay that money back and even more. We even presented the EDA with a proposal to temporarily use such a loan to leverage a larger loan in order to pave our lot, as well as make other necessary improvements.
Earlier this year, the Council voted to give $5,000 to the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival (who we support), stating that the Town benefits from the Festival (which it does indirectly). We are IN Town and will DIRECTLY benefit the Town's tax base and cannot get any help.
As to the other small businesses in Town - our hats go off to them for sticking it out. We know it's not easy. We haven't talked to a single one who wouldn't like to have more business. At our Market last year, we had lots of in-towners and out-of-towners and would often direct them to surrounding small businesses.
Small businesses and local farms are becoming more of a staple than ever, as the economy continues to lag, and people try to stay closer to home for fear of overspending their gas budgets.
As small businesses, we must work together, and our local officials must support us, whether you have a vote in Town or not (which we do!)
I cannot stress enough how wonderful a small town Mount Jackson is, but every Town has room for improvement.
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