PALMETTO -- Like her computer gaming business, Phalla Colman, owner of Hot Spins 777 at 1035 Hasko Road took a gamble when she illegally expanded her business. She lost her bet after city officials voted to shut her down Monday night.
The process has been a lengthy and divisive one, with the planning and zoning board first voting to approve Colman's conditional use application in December and then voting to deny it when it was sent back by the city commission in late January.
The commission first gave a consensus to prepare a denial order for a Jan. 31 meeting and then backtracked to allow for more information.
Monday's meeting was just as divisive with Commissioners Tambra Varnadore, Tamara Cornwell and Brian Williams voting to deny the
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permit. Jonathan Davis and Vice Mayor Harold Smith voted to approve, but that motion failed. Both Davis and Smith said they wanted to approve the permit until Colman's lease expired in Nov. 2017 to give Colman time to slowly suspend operations.
However, Colman was granted until April 15 to cease operations, notify her customers and vendors and to shut down her computerized gaming business, according to William's successful motion to deny.
"It's not right," Colman said after the decision. "I don't know what I'm going to do."
Colman expanded her business to 1,800 square feet in September, but was only approved for 870 square feet on her original 2010 conditional use permit. She expanded after a change in state law defining computerized gaming which forced her to grow the business from 27 machines to the minimum state required 50. However, she never notified the city of her expansion.
"When we change a specific use, it triggers a license and someone goes to inspect it," said Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant. "Not having done that, it evaded the process."
Bryant said her commission should also take note that the city asked for information about computer usage to satisfy concerns about parking requirements that came with more than doubling her business size. Some of the information was provided, but it wasn't supplied until Monday's meeting.
"It's nonresponsive to not get the data we requested," said Bryant.
The 2010 permit should have never been issued because the city codes require an "amusement" business be located on an primary roadway, which Hot Spins 777 is not. The illegal expansion was a violation of Colman's conditional use permit, she failed to report an armed robbery at her business last year and there were some discrepancies as to whether children were being allowed in the adult-only business.
Colman's attorney, Miami-based Nicole Sohn, said her client was unaware she was violating the city codes while trying to comply with state gaming regulations. She said the original permit gave no reference to the amount of machines or total square footage. However, city planner Debra Woithe showed where square footage limitations were listed three times.
"Never was there an intent to be deceptive to the city," said Sohn.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.