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.