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SOUTHPORT, NC (WWAY) — With the weather as hot as it has been, a seat in the shade is a good spot to be this summer. But if Southport leaders get their way, benches protected from the sun on one of the city’s busiest corners could soon be gone.

A shady seat on a summer’s day seems to fit perfectly into Southport’s small town charm. But one downtown Southport spot out of the sun is making waves.

“The town does not want want me to keep my benches under the shady tree for the customers and visitors,” said Marianne Long, who owns the Bullfrog Corner Shoppe with her husband Ernest.

“We think it’s ridiculous,” Ernest said. “Over 3,000 people have signed a petition for us saying they think it’s ridiculous. The first thing they ask is, ‘Oh, you must be kidding. This can’t be true.'”

The benches outside their store break the town sidewalk obstruction ordinance because they are not connected to the ground and are not up against their building.

This is not the first time this has been an issue, and now they are being fined.

“The problem is that it says there has to be a minimum of 48 inches distance,” Southport Alderman Ken Karn said. “But if you take a bench, then you have someone sitting on the bench, and then you take a person standing there talking to them… if all you had was four feet from the end of the bench to another object then it would be impassable with the people there.”

According to the Board of Aldermen the issue is spacing between the bench and the Bullfrog Corner Shoppe. Shoppers we talked with today said that’s a non-issue.

“You can take a wheelchair and push it through there, drive a golf cart through there. That’s with your camera set up,” Southport visitor Joe Sowers said.

Karn believes with the benches on city property that if something happens the city could be liable.

Mayor Robert Howard had a different take. In a statement he said, “I regret that this issue has come up again. In this economy I think we should yield to the needs of our business community, but also assure that ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) minimum standards are met.”

The Longs say they won’t move their benches or pay the fine.

“Have not paid it. Don’t plan on paying it,” Ernest said.

“Honestly I don’t think they care about Southport,” Marianne said.

The Longs will present their petition and case to the Board of Aldermen Thursday. They hope the city ordinance will be amended.

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16 Comments on "Southport business takes stand against bench law"

2015 years 9 months ago

Now that the “No port Southport” activity has diminished a bit (for now…), the Southport aldermen can really focus on the important issues such as this that plague their “quaint lil’ fishin’ village”.

Next on the agenda: Strip the so-called “historic homes” of vinyl siding, windows, doors and shutters and put it back “historically”…

2015 years 9 months ago

Sidewalks are for pedestrian traffic. They should be free of obsticles, including tables with sale items, benches, and yes, planters and TREES. Make it a law and enforce it. If the owner fails to cooperate, simply remove the obsticle and dispose of it. I know this stuff looks cute and quaint, but sidewalks are for people.

2015 years 9 months ago

As long as the side walk has the passage for ADA then the remainder could and should be used for all these items. People sit on the benches. There may need to be a limit as to how high they are but that is about it. Your way would have the city cut down the trees that line many of our side walks. Beside, many people in Southport appear to enjoy walking in the streets instead of on the sidewalks as can be witnessed nearly anywhere, anytime.

2015 years 9 months ago

This arose from a complaint filed with Code Enforcement…. Oh wait! that was Alderman Karn’s name on the complaint. No complaint was filed by any visitor or citizen.

2015 years 9 months ago

“You can get more with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word.”

Congratulations on standing up to tyranny, Mr. and Mrs. Long. It’s nice to know there are still some people with backbones in this country.

2015 years 9 months ago

I agree; however, they are probably being fined for each day that it stays. I’m not sure what the penalty is for not paying, but it can’t be good.

2015 years 9 months ago

there is allwayes one jerk that trys to start trouble.. The people of southport should fire the town leaders.and hire some one who has a braine in there head.That bench is not hurting one thing leave it a lone.I bet the town leaders have parked the behind on that bench at one time or another

2015 years 9 months ago

I totally agree with your post.

My previous post was only to point out that the Long’s may face hefty fines that could possibly impact their business (and perhaps their personal finances).

You’re so right about Jefferson. One of my favorite quotes of his is:

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”

2015 years 9 months ago

..it will continue to fester. If the Longs refuse to move the bench and refuse to pay the fine, it will then be contingent upon the people of Southport to ring that store and block any enforcement action by the pipsqueek bureaucrats.

Trust me when I say that tyranny doesn’t go away easily. It often requires collective effort and bold action by everyone.

Jefferson is often credited with calling for revolutions whenever necessary. I’m beginning to think that government (at all levels) will never be brought back under control of the people until we have one.

2015 years 9 months ago

Why don’t the cit of Southport worry about fixing the sidewalks that are so uneven that you can stump your toe as you are walking instead of worrying about the benches. SAVE THE BENCHES!

Jack Lawrence
2015 years 9 months ago

I’ve sat on that bench, my mother when in her upper 80’s sat on that bench…Didn’t I just hear today that the Federal Govt. was going to try and make it easier on businesses? Let’s start local…and help out our Southport businesses….Bullfrog is a major player on that corner and attacts a lot of foot traffic…and I assume tax dollar for Southport….

2015 years 9 months ago

I visit this area from Florida several times a year and enjoy the quaintness of Southport. I like that my hubby can sit in the shade while I shop or we can sit and enjoy an ice cream in the shade. I have never seen people so crowded on the streets of Southport that no one can pass and people are certainly gracious and willing to step aside if they happened to be blocking someone. It seems as though the town officials are saying GET OUT OF TOWN to some in their business community. Very sad…I for one would miss the lovely benches in the shade.

charley merritt
2015 years 9 months ago

we are a couple in our 70’s and we join two other couples our age several times a year for what we call our southport days.
after a nice lunch the ladies go shopping and we follow but we usually remain outside on the benches to give the girls more time to shop.
I hate to think that this old fellow on oxygen will be required to stand outside in the hot sun so something 4 feet wide can saftly pass me ,in all my trips to southport i must say i have never seen anything on the sidewalk that couldn’t pass me . if the town takes stands on issues that anger tourists and local customers you won’t have to worry, before long you local politicians will be able to bowl safetly in the streest let alone the sidewalks and while doing so try to figure out where to get the lost tax dollars from the former tourists.

Guest I
2015 years 9 months ago

Guys, Let’s not spend another year on such a minor topic-before you leave office, accomplish something more major and important! I’ve been on these sidewalks pushing a wheelchair, dragging 3 children and not even scraped my toe-many times! You were elected to lead our community,not spend 2 years deciding if partners should stand on their feet in the sun or sit on their butts in the shade while family shops! This topic is getting old!
Rise above the ordinary and focus on more important issues!
Look to your leader-And stop dropping your head everytime a community dog barks!
Thank you for your attention!

pat lewis
2015 years 9 months ago

I think the bench in front of Bull Frog needs to stay.

2015 years 9 months ago

If that bench was my tailgate on my truck, The town would impound my tailgate, truck and all. Who really needs a trouble causing frog shoppe anyway? Put them out of business and open another bar.


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