Georgetown GOP urges city council to drop $375,000 fine against former Democrat candidate

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, June 30, 2008
CONTACT: Tom Swatzel 843-222-7456

GEORGETOWN-- A Georgetown business owner and former Democrat city council candidate is receiving help from an unexpected source in her ongoing fight with the Democrat-controlled council over whether her downtown ice cream shop must install a public restroom.

Monday, Tom Swatzel, chairman of the Georgetown County Republican Party, condemned the City of Georgetown for denying Colonial Floral Fascinations owner Jeanette Ard a certificate of occupancy for a small ice cream shop she added to the rear of her business on Front Street in 2007 and fining her nearly $375,000 to date, even though the shop was built to city building permit specifications. Only after the construction was completed did city inspectors contend that a restroom was required, a condition with which Ard refused to comply.

"It's hard to defend the indefensible, or even explain why the city is engaging in a Keystone Cops routine against a successful business owner that will cost city taxpayers with a growing bill for legal fees and the possibility of a huge award for damages," Swatzel said. "It's even more interesting that it's the county Republican Party that is coming to Ms. Ard's defense, since the city council is strongly controlled by her fellow Democrats, but we believe the issue hurts all city and county residents by making it harder to attract and create new businesses and jobs."

The county GOP in a resolution delivered to the city Monday called on the Democrat-controlled city council to "resolve this matter without delay in favor of Ms Ard," and in a letter to his counterpart, county Democrat Party chairman Jamie Sanderson, the GOP's Swatzel urged Sanderson to join him in using his influence with the city council to resolve the issue. Ard, who ran for a city council seat several years ago, as well as five of the six council members and Georgetown Mayor Lynn Wood Wilson are members of the county Democrat Party.

In his letter to Sanderson, Swatzel wrote, "The arbitrary and capricious actions of the city have harmed Ms Ard, but they also send a very strong anti-business message to businesses that may locate or want to expand in Georgetown. This will harm the city's and county's ability to attract businesses and jobs. The Georgetown County Republican Party supports economic development and the creation of more jobs for city and county citizens. It is my hope that the county Democrat Party also shares the same view and is willing to publicly stand with us by helping to resolve Ms Ard's plight."

Swatzel noted that the state Department of Health and Environmental Control does not require small ice cream shops to have a public restroom, and that because Ard's building is on the National Historic Register and is recognized as a historic property by the city architectural review board, she is exempt from some building code requirements.

In September 2007, Ard was forced to sue the city for gross negligence for failing to advise her until after construction was complete that a restroom was required, and to avoid mounting fines of $1,087 per day.

Earlier this month, Circuit Court Judge Lee S. Alford denied a "motion to dismiss" requested by the City of Georgetown, ruling that "the allegations of the complaint are sufficient to set forth a cause of action for gross negligence" against the city.

Click here for link to recent Georgetown Times story
Click here for copy of resolution
Click here for copy of letter to Sanderson