City Destroys Popular Business Because Developer Thinks it’s Ugly
Jeremy Sark and Marie Dougherty are classic small-town entrepreneurs. Jeremy opened Sark’s Automotive, an automotive repair shop and U-Haul rental business, in 2013 in Mauldin, South Carolina. Marie joined him in 2016 and has been running the business with Jeremy ever since. Since opening, the business has grown and today Jeremy and Marie employ 17 people and serve over 10,000 customers per year. But Mauldin officials, pursuing long-elusive private economic development, decided that U-Haul trucks and trailers are simply too ugly for the new downtown they envision. The Mauldin City Council amended the city’s Zoning Ordinance to outlaw U-Haul rentals almost everywhere as of December 31, 2022, forcing Jeremy and Marie to close this important part of their small business.
Mauldin has been trying to modernize and create a downtown area for more than a decade. Developers—and their plans—have come and gone. Pursuing yet another grand plan in 2021, the city amended its Zoning Ordinance to change which uses are permitted on N. Main Street and near downtown. Mauldin grandfathered in every existing business except U-Haul rentals, meaning only U-Haul rentals have to close (or relocate) under the new zoning laws—apparently because some private developers once indicated that truck and trailer rentals were a bad look for a city.
But that violates South Carolina law—the government can’t prohibit someone from continuing a safe, reasonable, preexisting use of private property. That’s why Jeremy and Marie have joined up with IJ to fight the city’s unconstitutional zoning law that will close down their U-Haul business.
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