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Anyone driving near the intersection of Jefferson and Main streets over the past 10 days would have found the scene at the Sanctuary Arts Center hard to miss.
Caution tape and signs reading “Taken,” “For Sale, Make Offer,” and “Just Another Vacant Building” have caused a buzz on the streets of Taylorsville prompting more than a few questions, including whether the Sanctuary is the latest building to be condemned by the city.
The answer to that is no, but building owner Judy Shircliffe is glad community members are taking notice.
The Shircliffes, Judy and John, asked the city not to take away their Main Street access at the Sanctuary, but were denied twice.
At the September meeting of the Taylorsville City Commission, the commission voted 4-1 to deny a change order request that would allow the Shircliffes to maintain their street access. Mayor Don Pay was the lone dissenting vote.
At the time, commissioners stressed that out of fairness to other property owners who had made similar requests and were denied, they would also deny the Shircliffes’ request.
“I can’t do for one what I couldn’t do for the other two,” Commissioner Kathy Spears said at the Sept. 4 meeting.
The other two properties Spears referenced are the Tea Cup, owned by David and Lorie Young, and the property directly across Main Street from the Shircliffes, which was owned by Kent Stevens. (That property has since changed hands.)
Between that meeting and a Sept. 18 special meeting, John Shircliffe and City Clerk Steve Biven exchanged emails, including an email from a representative from the state Department of Transportation’s permit office. In it, John Shircliffe was informed that the state would most likely allow a 24-foot access onto Main Street and that it was neither the state’s “request or recommendation” that it be closed off.
During the Sept. 18 meeting, Commissioner Nathan Nation made a motion to rescind the commission’s Sept. 4 denial; the motion was seconded by Pay. However, it failed by a 2-3 vote.
Obviously upset with the commission’s decision, Judy Shircliffe said the decision was made to put up the signs and caution tape as a statement and to get others in the community to notice.
Judy Shircliffe said that she feels that her rights have been violated as a Main Street property owner.
“Everyone has a right to be defeated,” she said Monday afternoon. “But no one has the right to be surprised. I was surprised.”
Too many times citizens get complacent, she said. “I know I was.”
“I didn’t see this coming,” she said. “I just want people to wake up — we have real rights.”
Judy Shircliffe said the Sanctuary is a beautiful building and wanted to show the contrast of what it could look like if it were “just another vacant building.”
Despite the white sheets hanging in the building front, the Sanctuary will continue to be open as it has been on Thursdays, she said.
Commissioner Nation, the only member of the commission to change his vote between the September meetings, said that at first he wanted to be fair to other business owners who had had similar requests.
Nation also cited John Shircliffe’s involvement in the Main Street Committee (he served as president and most recently as the design chairperson; Shircliffe has since resigned from the committee) as a reason why he thinks the Shircliffes’ could have made their request earlier than Aug. 30 when the Phase II Main Street Project was already underway.
However, the deciding factor for Nation in changing his vote was the email communication from the state. That email gave Nation the impression that if the Shircliffes were to apply for the access, it would be granted to them.
“I did not think it was worth spending the money to put [the curb] in, and then make him go back, apply for a permit and put his entrance back in that was there anyway,” Nation said.
However, that information was not enough to sway the other commissioners.
Commissioner Ingram says the issue is about fairness.
“That’s it more than anything,” Ingram said Tuesday afternoon, adding that she thought the commission tried to remain neutral in applying the same rules for requests made.
“It’s nothing personal,” Ingram said. “But I felt like if I did that [approved the access], that I would have to go back and do that for everybody.”
Ingram said she appreciates all of John Shircliffe’s work on the Phase I and Phase II Main Street projects.
“This was his plan from the very beginning, and I’m grateful to him for that,” Ingram said.
The Sanctuary building is still for sale, Judy Shircliffe said, adding that the real estate agents and brokers with whom she has listed the building think the property should have access from the front.
Judy Shircliffe said she believes the Sanctuary could flourish with the right owner, or even the right tenant. She hopes the building will attract an artist who could live there, have a studio there and teach classes there.