A Dublin businessman claims his rezoning request that would have allowed him to open a restaurant and lounge in the city’s main industrial park is being denied because he is black.
The current zoning would allow the Rev. Johnny Vaughn to reopen the space at 2005 Laurens Industrial Blvd. as a restaurant, the property’s use before Vaughn bought it. Vaughn, however, asked the city’s zoning board to rezone the property from a general industrial district zoning to a highway-oriented business zoning, which would allow him to apply for a liquor license.
The board denied the request. City Council, however, has the final say and could go against the board’s recommendation.
“I felt like my civil rights had been violated,” Vaughn said after Thursday night’s City Council meeting. “That will tell you everybody here at City Hall is not fed out of the same spoon.”
City Councilwoman Julie Driger, who is black, said Vaughn’s claims of discrimination are premature at the least.
“I don’t know how he can say that because the City Council hasn’t acted on his request,” Driger said Thursday night. “His request has not been denied. City Council has not taken any action.”
“For him to say it’s racism, that’s a ridiculous comment,” Mayor Phil Best said.
City Council voted Thursday to postpone a second reading and public hearing on the rezoning request after Vaughn’s lawyer filed what City Attorney Lance Jones described as “seven constitutional challenges” to the board’s ruling. As procedure, rezoning requests are presented to the council as ordinances.
“One of the main issues raised is the method of holding this public hearing,” Jones told council.
Vaughn’s attorney, Frank Jenkins of Cartersville, said the challenges were raised now so that an appeal, if needed, could be made later in Superior Court.
The property is located behind the Flexsteel plant on a side road off Waldrep Industrial Boulevard, the street on which most of the city’s main industries are located.
Brian Lloyd, owner of the nearby Auto and Diesel Electric shop, said a lounge in the area sends a bad message to prospective industries.
“We’re trying to bring industry in,” said Lloyd, who had planned to speak against the rezoning request. “The lounge part is not what you want in an industrial park. I want a restaurant in there. I would go there and eat lunch.”
Lloyd disputed Vaughn’s contention that plants in the area shut down at 5 p.m., saying that some of the industries operate two or three shifts. He also noted that the new MAGE Solar plant, a solar panel manufacturer based in Germany, will open not far from the restaurant property later this year and could bring in new support industries.
“Would they want to buy property next to a lounge?” he asked.
The council plans to take up the matter at its Sept. 2 meeting.
To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.