Flea market ruling near

Fate of building depends on official

Staff WriterApril 21, 2006 

Business was booming at the Buckhorn Flea Market on Saturday, despite the signs from the building inspector.

STAFF PHOTO BY ROBERT WILLETT

— Orange County could decide the fate of the Buckhorn Flea Market building as early as today.

It's up to Susan Mellott, the county's building official, to decide whether to let the owners continue operating, order the building torn down or anything in between.

The county posted "Enter at Your Own Risk" warnings outside the building last week, after citing several building code and safety problems.

Thursday, the county held a hearing so the flea market's owners could explain how they're fixing the problems.

Speaking for the owners, who operate under the name Orange County Investors Partnership, Wes Ellison said they have contracted with the Mebane Fire Department to have a truck and two firefighters on site.

They've created new exits and installed illuminated exit signs, "No Smoking" signs and more fire extinguishers.

The flammable foam on the ceiling is down and so is the plastic from the walls. They've also hired an electrician to fix the faulty wiring, said Ellison, who is an owner's son.

"Basically, we believe the safety issues have been resolved," he said. "We're going to ask you to let us stay open until repairs can be made."

County officials visited the market, which borders Interstate 40-85 near the Buckhorn Road exit, after getting complaints about weekend traffic.

The owners have estimated that 5,000 visitors come through on a typical Saturday or Sunday, Mellott said.

Ellison said he would address the traffic problem by making the Buckhorn Road access entrance-only during peak hours. Exiting traffic will be directed to West Ten Road.

County Fire Marshal Mike Tapp said he was concerned to find someone had been sleeping in the building.

Ellison said the flea market staff would make sure vendors do not stay overnight.

He also asked Tapp for help in drafting new rules for the vendors, particularly on what kind of heating they could use.

The building has no heat, which has led many vendors to bring their own propane and kerosene heaters for warmth.

Mellott reminded the owners that they need to make some repairs that require a permit from the county's zoning division.

That's a problem because the zoning division cited the owners weeks ago for illegally expanding the flea market since it received its permit in 1984.

The owners are currently appealing that charge before the county's Board of Adjustment, which will continue to hear the appeal next month.

Staff writer Cheryl Johnston Sadgrove can be reached at 932-2005 or cheryl.sadgrove@newsobserver.com.

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