Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009
By Jessie Burchette
CHINA GROVE ó The town is asking a Superior Court judge to dismiss a legal action by Steve Stroud, owner of Tarheel Safe & Lock and a former alderman.
In October, the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustments ruled in favor of Lois Elliott, 505 W. Ketchie St., who claimed the town incorrectly permitted Stroud’s business as a home occupation.
Although the town is seeking dismissal of the Stroud action, at least two aldermen contend that many other residents have similar home businesses and aren’t be being targeted.
And the town has recently notified Stroud that he is is not in compliance.
Elliott, the long-time chairman of the ZBA, testified that noise from Stroud’s business harmed her and also devalued a lot she and her husband, Troy, own across the street from Stroud’s home.
Town Attorney Tom Brooke filed the response Jan. 29, seeking the dismissal. He also included a motion to include Lois Elliott as a necessary part to the legal action. Stroud’s attorney Rick Locklear did not name her in his filing.
Stroud named the town, the ZBA and participating members, excluding Elliott, in his complaint.
Brooke said this week that the court will likely hear the case within the next month.
He also acknowledged that the town cannot comply with the request for a complete transcript of the ZBA hearing that covered two nights. Brooke said the tape recorder apparently failed to work on the second session.
The court could order that the ZBA redo the hearing in its entirety and provide a total transcript. If the attorneys agree, they could accept a synopsis of the hearing.
During the hearing, several of Stroud’s neighbors testified that there was little noise coming from Stroud’s garage, or what noise they heard didn’t bother them. Stroud testified that 95 percent of his business is done away from home.
Town Planner Lindsay Hobbs, who issued the permit, testified that the permit was correctly issued and also maintained that Stroud’s business would be grandfathered because it existed prior to the ordinance adoption.
Stroud told the ZBA that the complaint was personal and political. Troy Elliott, a former alderman, and Stroud have been political foes for years.
The Board of Aldermen held a special session on Jan. 18 to meet with Brooke, discuss the case and give him instructions.
After a nearly one-hour closed session, the board came into open session. An initial motion by Alderman Allan Welter failed.
Alderman Lee Withers then made a motion to support the Zoning Board of Adjustments and any board appointed by the town. The motion also called for supporting Brooke as the attorney for any board appointed by the town. The motion was approved unanimously.
The board also approved a motion by Welter to send a letter of noncompliance to Stroud. That motion was also approved unanimously.
Although the votes were unanimous, the minutes show division on the board related to the Stroud issue.
Alderman Ron Overcash said there are other instances where there are violations of the ordinances and the town isn’t taking the same action as it is against Stroud.
Withers added that “there are hundreds of citizens that are non-compliant.”
The minutes of the Jan. 18 session also noted that Mayor Don Bringle directed Town Manager Bill Pless to “talk to the police chief about his officers using good judgment concerning traffic stops.”