By Alyssa Schnugg
The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors voted to assess a local business owner more than $115K in fines for failing to meet county building regulations for more than four years.
Two weeks ago during a public hearing, Building Official Joel Hollowell asked the Board to charge Ryan Jones, owner of J&J Wholesalers with developing a commercial complex without a site plan and for not having a valid building permit for his property off Highway 7.
At the request of his attorney, Gaines Baker, the Board gave Jones two weeks to right his wrongs, which included allowing Hollowell to inspect the property.
On Monday, Hollowell said he did observe that some of the old vehicles had been removed from the property, but also discovered a large dumping area filled with household debris.
The issues with Jones goes back to 2016 when Jones came to get an address for a residence he was building on the property. Hollowell soon discovered that Jones actually moved his business from Panola County and was operating his vehicle repair and salvage business from the same property.
In August 2016, construction of an 8,000 slab was poured and a smaller building was being constructed in the back. A worker on the site told Hollowell that the smaller building was going to be a daycare and that the larger building was going to be Jones’ business.
In June 2017, Jones did file for a site plan approval and was granted preliminary site plan approval contingent on him purchasing a building permit and completing the building, complete the site work which included screening from Highway 7, erosion control measures and complete paving to the entrance. He was given six months to comply.
Hollowell said as each deadline approached and Jones failed to meet them, Jones would make excuses as to why he hadn’t met those deadlines.
A year past with Lafayette County granting Jones multiple extensions.
After several attempts to notify Jones’ of the violations and missed deadlines, Lafayette County moved forward with the charges against Jones in Justice Court. Jones pleaded guilty and paid a $1,000 fine.
In February of this year, Hollowell notified Jones of his need to comply; however, COVID-19 stalled the process for several months. In August, Hollowell notified Jones again that he needed to comply with the regulations.
Hollowell served Jones a cease and desist order on operating a business on the property and ordered him to appear for the Board of Supervisors.
On Monday, Hollowell said that while Jones had removed some of the inoperable vehicles and repaired his sewer system, he did not believe Jones would complete the work as instructed due to his failing to do so for the last four years.
“We have heard his promises before,” Hollowell told the Supervisors. “I have 19 pages that pertain to all of Jones’ promises he’s made.”
Gaines asked the board to give Jones another month to finish the work he’s started. The supervisors agreed with Hollowell and voted to move forward with the charges and assessing the fines against Jones in court.
The supervisors assessed the fines against Jones at $64,400 for developing a commercial complex without a site plan approval; $49,350 for not having a valid building permit and $1,400 for having an illegal dump.
“This is no disrespect to you, Mr. Gaines,” Supervisor Mike Roberts told the attorney. “We just wish you were here four years ago.”