Sometimes it’s easier to seek forgiveness than permission, though forgiveness can cost upward of $13,000.
After months of mounting fines, eventually reaching five figures, N.C. Education Lottery vendor International Game Technology is seeking Clayton’s approval to temporarily use the old Ashley Furniture building on U.S. 70 Business for temporary storage.
The company is already in the building but signed its lease and moved in before getting the town’s approval. It continued to operate and began incurring daily fines for a zoning violation and for having unapproved dumpsters, said planning director David DeYoung. Those fines eventually added up to about $13,000, DeYoung said, motivating the company to seek the town’s clearance. DeYoung said his office will suspend additional fines as the company goes through the town’s review process.
IGT first moved into the building in August, and DeYoung said the town became aware of its operation by the end of the month. Fines started in the second week of September and continued until the company submitted its application on Oct. 31, he said.
“The building owners leased the space to the tenant with the presumption that it was OK,” DeYoung said.
It might seem strange to seek approval for a warehouse to be used as a warehouse, but the old furniture building, once Ashley and then Chloe, lies in a special-use district, automatically triggering town review for every new tenant. Earlier this year, gymnastics studio Nick’s Flippin Kids asked for and received town approval to move into the front 25,000 square feet. IGT is using 40,000 square feet on the back of the building to store and refurbish the area’s lottery machines.
“Basically what they do is they take in parts, unpack them, repack them, ship them back out,” said Cameron Sullivan, an attorney representing the landowner, not IGT. “There’s not really anything else to do with it. They’ve been in there at the back, as you can see, so they don’t show up on the front of the highway, so no one knows they’re there. I believe now they’re in compliance with everything the planning board has said to do.”
Earlier this year, IGT won a 10-year contract to handle the lottery’s computer systems. Its lease on the old furniture warehouse expires in April as the company moves on to another region.
Sullivan called IGT a “model tenant,” and the application quickly gained the endorsement of the planning board.
“If it wasn’t in a special-use district, we wouldn’t be going through this exercise,” planning board chairman Frank Price said. “We welcome the use of the building, even if it is temporary. That building has sat vacant or partially vacant for longer than we would have hoped it would have.”
Neither the planning board nor the town’s staff mentioned IGT’s months of noncompliance during the meeting. The application now moves to the town council, carrying a recommendation for approval from the planning board.