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City declares public nuisance behind Okey Dokey, fine at $23k

SALISBURY — A business that racked up $19,000 in fines for a sign ordinance violation last year is in trouble with the city of Salisbury again.

The Okey Dokey General Store at 126 E. Innes St. now faces an even larger fine — $23,750 and growing — for piles of debris and storage material behind the shop.

Tuesday night, City Council declared the area a public nuisance, allowing the Code Services Division to begin abatement and charge the owner for the cleanup.

Code Services Manager Chris Branham lowered last year’s sign fine to $150 after Okey Dokey complied with city regulations. But Branham said he hasn’t agreed to lower the new fine yet.

“Until it stops accumulating, no decision has been made,” Branham said.

Okey Dokey owner Stan Williamson said he’s working to clean up the area behind the store and hopes to be in compliance by today. He said he wasn’t aware until Wednesday of the large fine, which has been growing by $100 a day since April 27, and can’t afford to pay it.

Branham said Williamson and his employees have been aware of the growing fine, as well as the ongoing city code and fire code violations. Okey Dokey has been cited 18 times since June 2010 by Branham and the Fire Department for conditions that present a public health danger and downtown fire hazard.

“There have been a constant barrage of reinspections, where compliance has not been met by the property owner,” Branham said.

While outdoor storage is allowed downtown, Okey Dokey regularly stores combustible materials next to the building, he said.

As of Tuesday, Williamson had done some cleanup behind the business but was still in violation, Branham told City Council.

George Wilson, who owns the property next door to the Okey Dokey, asked City Council to take action. Conditions at Okey Dokey have a negative impact on his property and others nearby, Wilson said.

“Enforcement of the minimum (code) is an absolute necessity,” he said.

The city must monitor situations that present a risk to property, as well as to people who work and shop at Okey Dokey, Wilson said.

After viewing photos, Councilman Brian Miller said it was clear the materials created a fire hazard.

“We don’t want to cause a business hardship, and I don’t think we are,” Miller said “We are asking for minimum acceptable behavior, and they have chosen for whatever reason to ignore those standards.”

Now labeled a chronic violator, Okey Dokey won’t get as much warning next time, Branham said. His office will give the business 15 days to comply with city nuisance code if found in violation again, rather than going through the process to come before City Council.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

Also on Tuesday, City Council did the following:

• Approved a request from Fisher-Harriss Development to extend the vested rights to 2016 for a planned townhome development called Villas at the Crescent, off Jake Alexander Boulevard and near Isenberg Elementary School.
The developer had suspended the project due to the bad economy. Nothing has been built.
The golf course owner said he was concerned the development would cause flooding on the course, but Chuck Harriss said the development has the right to discharge stormwater on the golf course property.

• Rezoned two parcels from residential mixed-use to downtown mixed-use at the request of St. Johnís Lutheran Church and Hedrick Realty, which own the property. The rezoning included the church campus and a parking lot along Council Street.
The church plans to build a new family life center, attached to its education building, on the grassy knoll adjacent to the parking lot at the intersection of North Jackson and West Council streets.
Split zoning had to be resolved for the project to move forward.

• Approved Jake Alexander Boulevard, Industrial Avenue, the airport, downtown and North Long Street as Urban Progress Zones for 2013-2014.
Businesses receive tax credits for creating jobs within the progress zones.

• Awarded a $113,608 contract to Charlotte Truck Center for a tandem axle dump truck.

• Agreed to work with N.C. Department of Transportation to build sidewalks in the Salisbury Mall area.
The project includes both sides of Jake Alexander Boulevard from the railroad crossing to Statesville Boulevard and both sides of Statesville Boulevard from Jake to Holly Avenue. Construction should be done in June 2014.
Congestion Mitigation Air Quality, or CMAQ, funds will pay for 73 percent of the project. The cityís portion is expected to be about $131,000 over two and a half years.

• Appointed Dr. Windsor Eagle, former Salisbury High School principal, and Brian Miller (not the City Council member) to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

• Called for applications to the new Youth Advisory Council. Any student in ninth, 10th or 11th grade at Salisbury High School may apply through their guidance counselor.

• Moved its next meeting to 3 p.m. Jan. 3, followed by a joint meeting at 5 p.m. with the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education and Rowan County Board of Commissioners regarding the future school central office.

• Presented City Manager Doug Paris with a cartoon by Mark Brincefield that appeared in the Salisbury Post.

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