Some store owners want you to ask them about their weekly specials. Brad Smith wants you to ask him about his dispute with the city.
The Mount Pearl businessman — owner of S&S Supply Crosstown Rentals — has taken his feud public on his business’ sign on Topsail Road, putting the message “City of Mount Pearl not the place to do business — Ask me why” on display.
Smith said Friday the dispute started when a nearby business complained to the city that Smith had his shop’s equipment displayed too close to the road.
“I’ve been in this location for seven years without issue by the town and I’ve always had my equipment out there to advertise, like everybody else does in Mount Pearl,” he said. “If you drive around, you’ll see people like Fun n’ Fast and all the companies advertise their equipment to let people know what they do.”
Smith said the complainant is a business owner who has “taken a dislike” to S&S, and complained that Smith was breaking the law by putting his equipment on his front lot.
“The city felt obligated to address it, and in addressing it, over the last six months, I’ve attempted many, many, many times to visit with them, discuss, try to mediate something that will work for them and us,” he said. “They’ve come back and said we’re causing a safety issue with sight-lines and snow-clearing.”
S&S has a 40- to 45-foot buffer zone in which he’s not supposed to have his equipment, he said, but everyone else in the area has a five-foot buffer, and he’s asked the city for a compromise. “I’m asking them to … give me a 25-foot buffer zone, which is 20 feet more than everybody on the strip. ... That would still leave me room to display some of my equipment so I can show off new equipment.”
Mount Pearl Mayor Randy Simms said Monday the city isn’t picking on Smith, but is obligated to ensure the rules are enforced.
“For us, the regulatory piece is what has to be upheld,” said Simms, who pointed out the decision was prompted by a complaint from another business operator.
“This wasn’t the city out hunting somebody down. … It was recognized after the city investigated that there appeared to be validity in the complaint, and we had to uphold the regulation and rules, and that’s all that happened in this particular context.”
The city hasn’t been interested in compromise, said Smith, and out of frustration he called VOCM’s Open Line radio program, which is hosted by Simms, to air the dispute.
“Mr. Simms called me an hour after and indicated that we need to get this resolved,” said Smith. “(Simms said) ‘Do not call the show anymore. Here’s my cell number. If we do not get this resolved, call me first.’”
Smith said he thought he was getting a fresh start with the city, but he said administration were still unwilling to allow a variance or rezone his property.
He said he suspects favouritism towards the complainant — who he declined to identify — and so a couple of weeks ago decided to put the anti-Mount Pearl message on his sign.
“Out of sheer frustration, I want the public to know this town, this council, this planning department — (is) not the place to try to work with, because they’re not willing to work with anyone. It’s their way or the highway.”
Simms said Smith’s sign won’t influence any decision made by the city.
“You’re certainly allowed to do that if you want,” he said. “The idea behind going public with it obviously is to be able to argue the point, and I guess the effort is an effort to embarrass council by putting up that sign. That’s fine. If that’s the avenue you want to go. I don’t think at the end of the day it’s going to matter one way or the other as it comes to decision-making on the part of council.”
Simms also said he wasn’t worried about the sign hurting Mount Pearl’s business dealings.
“I think the overall reality is that for businesspeople who do business in Mount Pearl, this is actually quite a good place to do business,” he said.
“I don’t see this kind of dispute as being one that has universal application to the city, so no, I don’t see it as a major problem. … I don’t think it’ll scare off any businesspeople.”