The Warehouse is back!!!!
I'm sure you've heard a bunch of rumors...........here's the real story!!!
On August 18th after over 125 successful Warehouse shows without incident or accident, the Kennesaw Police show up to shut us down. The reason? Our business license doesn't state that we have the right to do musical events or assemblies. So on Monday I went to the Kennesaw City Hall and got copies of my business license that is on file. There are 5 pieces of paper. Two of them are from the Cobb Fire Marshals office where they wrote "assembly" on it and approved us for 201 people in Warehouse area. Next stop, a meeting with the head of Zoning for Kennesaw. He he told me the reason we were shut down was that our business license was not correct and we could not do assemblies. My response was "funny thing about that, it shows right here in the papers that are on file with the city of Kennesaw that we were approved by the fire Marshall to do these types of activities." At that point he backtracked and stated that perhaps we didn't have the proper parking to do the types of activities and the city would have to come out and take a look at the grounds. A week goes by and I have another meeting with Kennesaw zoning where they tell me we do not have adequate parking and we are shut down until I can rectify the situation. So we went from being allowed to having 201 people to 0. The cities suggestion was to build a parking lot with at least 20 more spaces behind the Warehouse before we could resume business. A call to my landlord revealed that even though he owned it, the property behind the Warehouse is a separate parcel of land and the city was essentially asking me to build a parking lot on my neighbors property. I was ready to call in the lawyers but instead I wrote a very nice letter to the mayor of Kennesaw and he jumped into action. Here is a copy of the letter. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
August 29, 2006
Dear Mr. Mayor,
I have a problem that I hope you can help me with. I am a taxpaying business owner within the City of Kennesaw. My primary business is Ponier Music where we sell musical equipment, rent band/orchestra instruments and teach both private and group lessons and classes. One of the reasons we moved to Kennesaw was because the building we moved into had a large space for us to do recitals, clinics and concerts. This is where the problem begins.
We have been doing concerts on Friday and Saturday nights for almost two years. Our concerts consist of local teenage rock bands (usually 4 per evening) playing for friends and family. We start playing at 7:30 and end at 11:30 so the kids can get home by curfew. We are averaging 100 kids per show. We don't serve alcohol, we have adult supervision and in over 125 shows, we have not had one problem or even a fight break out. We are providing a great place for local musicians to perform and the kids and their parents have praised us.
On Friday August 18th at the start of our evening, two Kennesaw Police officers came out and said we had to shut down. They said the reason was our business license stated we could do lessons/sales/rentals but said nothing about recitals/clinics/concerts. No amount of persuasion on my part would change their mind and we have been shut down since the 18th. The police officers did tell me they liked what we were doing. They liked that the kids had a place to hang out instead of causing trouble in neighborhoods or hanging out in parking lots. Their advice was to go down to city hall and have my business license amended.
On Monday August 21st I went to city hall and got copies of my current business license file and made an appointment with the Zoning Administrator. At the meeting Zoning pointed out that I was not set up for assemblies. I showed him two documents that were on file wit the City of Kennesaw. The Fire Marshall had approved me for this type of activity. I explained that I was not trying to deceive anyone. All music stores have recital halls and that was just a part of running a music store. At any rate I apologized and asked if I could just get my license amended. Once he saw that the Fire Marshall had approved me for assemblies he changed his tune and said perhaps I didn't have the proper parking for the types of activities and he would need to come out and look at the building and parking and assess the situation after that. We set a meeting for Friday August 25th.
At the meeting on Friday Zoning informed me that we only had 30 lined parking spaces and that just wasn't enough for assemblies. I asked him how many would be enough but he couldn't give me a straight answer. I told him that most of our kids are underage and either come 4-6 per car and/or are dropped off and picked up by parents. I could not convince him of my point of views so I finally asked how many people are we allowed to have so we can at least continue on a smaller scale? Zoning once again stated we don't have enough spaces to perform the assemblies we have been doing so we have effectively gone from a capacity of 201 people (per the Fire Marshall) to Zero. Zoning wrote up a report of his findings on August 29th and I picked it up the same day.
In his report zoning asks for four things. Clean up trash and debris around a house that my landlord owns on the back part of our property and amend our business license. Not a problem. The other two items are pave a 20 space parking spot and build a fence between my building and the CVS next store. Big Problem! This sounds very expensive. These recitals/ concerts are a very small part of our income. We do these concerts primarily so local musicians have a place to perform for friends and family.
I feel like I am being treated unfairly and I am getting the runaround. Zoning has not quoted any laws or statutes to keep me from getting my license amended. He has only told me he feels uncomfortable. I have looked up the parking laws for the City of Kennesaw. Appendix A Zoning Article VII section 710.4 parking requirements state that if I'm an assembly hall I'm allowed to have 3 people for every 1 space. If I'm considered a nightclub (because the police pointed out in their report that I was providing a "club-like atmosphere") then I only need 1 space per 200 sq. ft. (net) of floor space. I only have 1800 square feet so I would only need 9 spaces to do what I'm doing and according to Zoning I have 30.
I'm not looking for any special treatment or for anyone to bend or break the laws for me. I'm looking for someone who will look at the laws and apply them. I'm running a clean operation for local kids to learn and better themselves thru artistic pursuits and to perform for friends and family. I pay my taxes and my landlord pays his taxes. I am an asset to the City of Kennesaw but recently I have not been treated as such. I hope you can remedy this situation for me without us having to get lawyers involved.
Sincerely, Doug Ponier
The Mayor wrote a very brief reply to me. "I will look into this." He was as good as his word. A few days later Kennesaw Zoning called me up and scheduled a meeting where we were able to come to a compromise. No parking lot, no new fence, restripe the parking lot, get your business license amended and you are back in business. They still made me jump through all the hoops as if I was starting over with a brand new business. Even though we made no changes to the building in the 2 1/2 year since we moved in we still had the get the building inspector to come out and fire Marshall come out. We passed everything and we are back in business.
And you know what started it all? Two complaints. One call from CVS that the kids were parking in their lot and one email from a parent who came to a show at the Warehouse and thought the kids were dressed "weird". So the city looked into it and instead of sending me a letter saying "Hey, there's a problem with your business license and you need to fix it." They went to the extreme and came to a show and made everyone go home. Zoning apologized to us and said that maybe it could have been handled better.
So that's the truth and nothing but so help me God. Many thanks to Mayor Church of Kennesaw for getting the ball rolling again and the Kennesaw Zoning Department for compromising and many thanks to all of you who showed your support of getting the Warehouse reopened. Can you believe I wrote all this? I can't believe you read it!!!!!