By Kirk Starratt
A Medford couple considers the re-opening of their mechanic shop a victory for small business operators in Kings County.
Joe Jackson and Lynn Corkum-Jackson feel they shouldn’t have had to endure such a long battle, fraught with red tape, to legalize their existing business, but are pleased with how everything turned out in the end.
“It wouldn’t have happened without the support of our customers,” Jackson said. “The community stood behind us and our customers stood behind us.”
The Jacksons were surprised to receive a letter from the County of Kings on Nov. 23, 2011 indicating that someone had complained about the automotive repair shop they were operating in their detached garage.
The problem was that the property is zoned agricultural. Under the land use bylaw, automotive repair as a rural home occupation was allowed in the zone, but only on lots exceeding 100,000 square feet. Development Officer Mandy Burgess stated in the letter that county property mapping indicated the lot was about 15,000 square feet in size, which was not sufficient.
The letter stated, “Please cease all automotive repair activities not related to personal automobiles immediately.”
Jackson applied to the county to have the minimum lot size requirement removed from the regulations and increase the setback from surrounding homes from 100 to 200 feet so his mechanic shop would be conforming. Several months later, county council approved the amendments.
“We really couldn’t understand the complaint. Everyone who lives around here are customers, and if not, they supported us,” Jackson said. “Why was there a complaint in the first place?”
Jackson credits former area Coun. Jim Taylor for helping them resolve the matter with the municipality. Jackson said Taylor went above and beyond the call of duty to help them.
Too much red tape
Jackson said he’s heard of a lot of people having difficulty with the amount of red tape involved when doing business with the county.
Jackson admits to feeling discouraged by the situation at the time. For example, he had to pay about $5,000 to have the land surveyed because the county didn’t agree with the property boundaries. The situation created several unexpected expenses, he said, and it seemed that as soon as he completed one request, something else came up. He didn’t foresee any difficulties when he first opened in February 2009.
Corkum-Jackson said they jumped through a lot of hoops and over some walls, knocking a couple down in the process.
Their lives were changed the day the municipality closed them down, she added, but they were determined to face the facts with dignity. She said they had to stay focused on the problem at hand try to solve the mess without letting negativity override their thinking - and they survived the storm.
“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass: it’s about learning to dance in the rain,” she said.
The community rallied around them, the couple says. They put notices up in local stores explaining their situation and gathered pages of signatures of support on a petition. Some people who didn’t even know them offered support because “they didn’t like a small business being shut down for ridiculous reasons,” Corkum-Jackson said.
She is grateful for all the support they received. Corkum-Jackson is especially grateful to Jackson’s mother, Donna Jackson, his great-aunt, Marion Carty, and customer and friend John Bennett for writing heart-felt letters of support to county council. Many people who live in the area have a great appreciation for the business because they want to have a mechanic close by when they need one.
“It is a family business,” she said. “We care about the people who come through our doors.”
Corkum-Jackson said they would actually like to thank those who complained about their business to the county. It has given them the opportunity to make improvements, including a modernized, comfortable waiting area for customers. The garage is now wheelchair accessible, too.
It was Jackson’s grandfather, Reynolds Carty, who first got Jackson interested in mechanic work. Somewhat ironically, the day Carty retired as the village barber in Canning after more than 50 years of service was the day Jackson received his occupancy permit from the county to re-open his shop. Carty said he thinks it’s great that his grandson can now legally operate his business.
The occupancy permit is now framed and displayed proudly on the counter for everyone who enters the shop to see.