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Pink Protest: Business owner makes a statement

City said 'paint it,' so he did

POSTED: October 17, 2007 5:08 a.m.

GAINESVILLE -- Heated relations with the city marshal’s office were answered by a cool coat of hot pink paint on an E.E. Butler business.

Rick Gailey, owner of the Peppers Market buildings at 624 E.E. Butler Parkway, said he chose pink paint with a lime green stripe after he felt like the marshal’s office was picking on him.

“They pick on people like me and poor folks,” Gailey said. “They don’t pick on certain other people in the city that own property that’s in a lot worse shape than mine was in.”

Gailey had been cited on two different occasions by the city marshal’s office for structural violations that he said were only cosmetic. According to a letter from Gailey’s lawyer, Wes Robinson, the list of violations had grown from one to 16 between April and August.

The violations, sparked from verbal complaints, were to the city’s International Property Maintenance Code.

“They’ve got an International Property Maintenance Code,” Gailey said. “Which means that they can just nitpick anybody they want to.”

However, when Gailey received his second notification of code violations in June, he said he could find no evidence of the adoption of such a code on the city’s Web site. After a meeting with City Manager Bryan Shuler on July 19, Gailey’s concerns were alleviated when Shuler told him not to worry about the violations unless they posed a hazard, according to the letter from Robinson.

Nearly a month later, Robinson received a letter notifying him that Gailey had 30 days to make the repairs, including replacing the gutters and repainting the buildings.

That’s when Peppers got a little hotter — pink, that is.

“The city forced me to do what I done, and I went and done what they asked me to do,” Gailey said. “I repaired the problems on it that they had a problem with and I painted it.”

Rodney Smith, deputy marshal, said Shuler should have asked him and Chuck Smith about the International Maintenance Code before advising Gailey and his lawyer not to worry about the violations.
“It’s been adopted for the last couple of years, its already in the system,” Smith said. “That’s our Bible; we go by that.”

Smith also said he did not know why the International Property Maintenance Code had not been put on the city’s Web site previously, but that he is working on getting it posted there.

Gailey contends that the city was picking on him and that there are plenty of buildings around him in the Midtown area that are in worse shape than his.

However, Smith maintains that he was just doing his job as a nuisance abatement officer, and did not treat Gailey any differently.

“We’ve handled him with kid gloves, trust me,” Smith said. “If it was anybody else, I would have written them a ticket.”

Gailey has filed two different open records requests to find out how many other buildings in the area had been cited. He said that from January to mid-September, the marshal’s office handed out 29 citations within a one-mile radius of Peppers Market. Fourteen of those citations were handed out in the past month.

“It is interesting that well over half of all the letters produced by the city were dated after the first open records request (from Gailey),” the letter from Robinson stated.

But Smith says the lag in citations in the previous months were due to the office’s other priorities such as business licenses, and the office is just now getting back to focusing on structural maintenance. Another reason for the lag was a personnel transition, he said.

But still Gailey does not know why the city would check the same building on multiple occasions.

Smith just said that’s the way he does things. “When I find a structure, I check it continuously,” Smith said.

City Council members have, on more than one occasion, expressed their distaste for the new color of the buildings. Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras recently noticed the hot pink structure and commented on it at an Oct. 4 work session.

“I came back from St. Simons (Island), and as I drove into Gainesville, I thought, WHAT?” Figueras said.

Figueras said she knew the city had no right to tell people what color to paint their buildings, but that the city’s entrance is not the place for hot pink. “That is a shame,” she said.

Councilman Danny Dunagan told her that Gailey painted the building in spite after Dunagan had not been able to meet with him.

“That makes where I live look like we don’t care,” Figueras said.

But the council’s problem is not Gailey’s problem now that he has taken care of all the violations, he said.

“I’m sorry that they’re not pleased with my color, but everybody has opinions, you know, about colors,” Gailey said. “That’s the good thing about this country we live in.”



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