Three Evans businesses found in nonconformance last year are almost in the clear after Columbia County officials took steps to right an oversight.
The businesses, Smallcakes Cupcakery, Old Tyme Tattoo & Barber and Budget/Avis Rent-A-Car, were deemed illegal uses for the Liberty Square shopping center in November. Columbia County planning staff took responsibility for the discrepancy, calling it a departmental oversight caused partly by rapid growth over the past decade.
County planning staff have since been working with the center’s property management company, Sherman & Hemstreet Real Estate, to bring the businesses into conformity and ensure no one is forced out.
Planning commissioners took action Thursday by recommending that the county commission approve a bakery, rental car office and tattoo parlor/barber shop as allowable uses in the center. The decision is expected to be upheld at the next commission meeting Feb. 18.
“It’ll bring everything that they’re doing out there into conformance,” said Columbia County planner Andrew Strickland.
Liberty Square opened across from a Wal-Mart in 2006 and is now occupied by a dozen tenants, including German and Mexican restaurants, a nail salon and a martial arts academy.
The cupcake business opened in 2013, while the rental car business and tattoo/barber shop have been operating there for years. There are about 20 uses allowed in the center, ranging from restaurants and gift shops to banks and certain medical clinics.
Because the center is zoned for planned-unit development, any business approved for the property must be specifically defined.
Chris Farrow, a commercial agent with Sherman & Hemstreet, said he is satisfied knowing that the tenants will likely be allowed to continue doing business there.
“It sounded bad at first,” he said. “We were kind of scared, but it looks like they realized that (the businesses) have been there a while and haven’t been causing any problems.”
Budget/Avis Rent-A-Car, which was accused of not paying its occupational tax for five years, has in fact made payments since 2011 and is up-to-date on business license fees, said county licensing and permits manager Erin Hall, adding that multiple ownership changes of the business contributed to the clerical error.