At left: Joel Ann Chandler, owner of the Mauldin Open-Air Market, presents Mauldin (SC) City Council with 2800 signatures of her customers, as well as others who value local small business. (Monday night, Sept, 19, 2011) Chandler has operated the market for 30 years, and the land has been in her family since the 20s.
We attended the Mauldin City Council meeting last night, to help a popular local businesswoman try and SAVE her business, which also happens to be an indispensable upstate treasure. Democracy in action! Well, we'll see how it goes.
Chandler called into my radio show on Saturday morning, and talked about the planned land-grab at length. I went to shop at the Open-Air Market myself on Sunday (check out those fabulous cherry preserves and yummy cashew brittle!) and spoke with Chandler about the upcoming hearing, and then decided to attend it myself.
Some background, from a Sept 7th news report:
Longtime Produce Vendor Takes On SC-DOT
Market Owner Worries Project Could Hurt Business
by Gabrielle Komorowski, WYFF News 4 Anchor/Reporter
MAULDIN, S.C. -- The South Carolina Department of Transportation plans to widen an Upstate roadway -- but not without a fight from a feisty produce vendor.
Joel Ann Chandler has operated the Mauldin Open-Air Market on Butler Road for 30 years.
The SC-DOT wants to widen the intersection and the nearby area where Butler Road meets Corn Road and Brides Road. The area includes the road in front of Mauldin High School.
Chandler said the changes would make it difficult for her tractor trailer to safely deliver produce. She said the SC-DOT wants to convert a nearby embankment into an access driveway.
"It's going to be hard for us to even get out in the road without red lights; dangerous. Kids are running across the road all the time over here," Chandler said.
Chandler also said much of her customers' parking space would be eliminated. "If people have that much trouble getting in and out, you know eventually they won't come," Chandler said.Mauldin mayor Don Godbey listened politely, but sounded rather tepid in his response, assuring Chandler at the Council meeting that he had "advocated on her behalf" at a recent Department of Transportation meeting. And that means what exactly? One of the Godbey's associations is with GPATS, which is one of the culprits responsible for this little land-grab scheme. I don't know whether Chandler knows that or not, since I just discovered it myself, doing a websearch on GPATS. In light of this fact, I find it a bit disingenuous, that when Chandler mentioned the organization in her comments to Mauldin City Council, Godbey stayed silent and didn't see fit to let folks know that he is in cahoots with them.
Chandler has collected more than 1,000 signatures from others opposed to the project. She plans to send the signatures to Governor Nikki Haley.
Tommy Elrod, program manager with SC-DOT, said the project would make the entire area safer.
"She'll have a 40-foot wide commercial driveway and it will be well defined, so to me, that's much safer. You won't have traffic in and out of her business mixing with pedestrians standing at the corner waiting to cross over," Elrod said.
Elrod said the project is not set in stone.
"I'll continue to work with Ms. Chandler and try to come up with access that eases her concerns," Elrod said.
Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin next summer.
City Councilman Michael Reynolds took the time to thank Joel Ann (none of the other council members did) and complimented her for doing everything correctly. He sounded sad, though. I think he sees the handwriting on the wall. I am also quite skeptical, since I know how Greenville County is, when they want some ordinary person's land: ruthless. But I am hopeful... Joel Ann is a good person who has done much excellent work in the community and has many friends. Chancey Lindsey-Peake of Banana Manna breads, made a statement of support, explaining that Joel Ann has provided a working livelihood to many local vendors and small businesspeople like herself.
Complaint: Conservatives frequently purport to believe in small business, and yet, do not actively support businesses that reflect the culture of the south; the community itself. They will let Walmart destroy my neighborhood, but they won't go out of their way to stop this insanity. Why? Where were all the conservatives last night? And in truth, it wasn't only them: Why was it up to two Green Party members to represent the Left? Where are the Democrats and other progressives who claim to believe in BUYING LOCAL?
It is these kinds of sneaky, incremental moves and land-grabs that have Walmartized the country. If we want to roll that back, we have to start supporting people like Joel Ann. Please shop at her market and let her know that she has your support.
SAVE THE MARKET!