The City of Mauldin’s ordinance forces South Carolina business owner to cease renting U-Haul trucks at his North Main Street automotive shop, now he filed lawsuit
A Mauldin business owner has been assisted in filing a lawsuit against the city of Mauldin due to an ordinance that if passed will prevent him from continuing to rent U-Haul trucks out of his automotive shop located on North Main Street.
Beginning in 2023, it will be illegal for companies to rent moving trucks anywhere in the city that is not specifically designated as a transitional area between residential and industrial districts due to an ordinance that was passed by the City Council as part of a larger overhaul of the city’s zoning regulations.
According to Jeremy Sark, proprietor of Sark Automotive, the law would lose his company of almost $50,000 in annual revenue, a sum that has been consistently increasing year after year. Because he would not be able to maintain the U-Haul trucks if he did not rent them out, he would not only miss out on the estimated $30,000 in annual revenue that he receives from doing so, but he also would miss out on the increased visibility that the service provides as more people move into the area.
“We’re possibly going to wind up losing an employee because we’re losing money coming in to pay for that employee’s salary,” he added. “This is because we’re losing money coming in to pay for that employee’s salary.”
When Sark received a notification from Mauldin saying that he would have to stop renting trucks after December 31, 2022, that’s when he found out about the change in zoning law that had been adopted by City Council months earlier. Sark found out about the change in zoning rule last year. Shortly after that, lawyers working for the Institute for Justice, which is a non-profit law business with its headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, noticed news reports about how the ordinance might affect Sark and offered their assistance. Currently, he is being represented by a three-lawyer team from the firm on a pro gratis basis, and on September 8 they filed a complaint against the city.
According to Bob Belden, an attorney with the Institute for Justice representing Sark, the Mauldin case comes within two of the firm’s key emphasis areas, namely economic liberty and private property rights.
The announcement of the ordinance was a shock to Marie Dougherty, who is the general manager of Sarks Automotive. She was relieved when the attorneys from the Institute for Justice offered their services to defend the company against the ordinance.
The complaint, which was submitted to the state court, aims to prevent the city from being able to put the new zoning rule into effect.
“Jeremy and Marie are living the American dream, but the city of Mauldin doesn’t like the way it looks,” Belden said. “What is occurring here is that Jeremy and Marie are living the American dream.”
As Mauldin works to establish a city center on a 24-acre tract just off of North Main Street near Butler Road, Mayor Terry Merritt stated that the purpose of the ordinance was to beautify the city’s most visible areas, particularly its main thoroughfares. This comes at a time when Mauldin is working to beautify the city’s main thoroughfares. Within the next year, construction on the first phase of the project that city leaders believe will act as a downtown corridor is slated to begin. The expectation is that the new corridor would improve pedestrian and vehicular traffic in the area.
According to Merritt, “essentially, we’re attempting to portray that you’re heading into a downtown area.” [Citation needed]
Jigar Patel, proprietor of the Yogi Food Store and gas station located smack dab in the middle of the planned city center corridor in Mauldin, would also be impacted by the ordinance. Patel, who is not a party to the lawsuit, stated in December that U-Haul rentals constitute approximately one third of his company’s earnings, and that should he lose that revenue stream, he may be forced to close his firm. More recently, he stated that this year, in comparison to previous, there has been a significant decrease in the cost of renting moving trucks, and he is now considering selling his property to a developer who hopes to incorporate it into a project to build the city center. Patel had previously discussed the possibility of selling the property for the city center with a developer; however, those discussions did not result in a sale of the land.
He stated that we had not yet made a decision regarding what steps to take next. We don’t want to have a strained relationship with the city because we have the city center and everything else that comes with it.
The U-Haul regulation, according to Merritt, has nothing to do with the offers from developers to buy Patel’s land; but, the upcoming city center project is a factor in the city leaders’ efforts to make the city more enticing for investment. According to him, the sunset clause that was incorporated into the rule modification was intended to provide companies with sufficient time to wind down their rental activities.
Belden stated that despite the fact that Patel is not a plaintiff in the action, he is optimistic that the complaint would result in relief not only for Sark but also for himself.
Another attorney representing Sark, Seth Young, stated that despite the fact that the code will make it illegal to rent trucks, other businesses along North Main Street make use of box trucks, which are not going to be illegal under the new rule.
He stated that this further demonstrates the arbitrary and unreasonable nature of the situation. They could expand their firm to become one that fixes a large number of box trucks and park those vehicles in front of their building, but they wouldn’t be able to rent from that site.
Merritt stated that the rule is merely a component of a more extensive effort to modernize and improve the appearance of the city.
“We’re an ancient city, and we’ve got to start cleaning it up and upgrading the facades on our strip malls and our pocket commercial centers,” he added. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.” “Therefore, each and every one of those aspects needs to be taken into consideration in the redevelopment plans for the future of the City of Mauldin.”