A letter to the editor, Monticello News, this week
July 22, 2016
After reading your article last week on the BOC discussion of Bennett Cove, it led me to believe that there had only been one violation there—“a party last year caused problems with loud noise and other complaints.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
Despite the fact that Dr. Cecil Bennett is operating a commercial business (which he advertises on several sites online) in an agriculture district, he has been and continues to be allowed to carry on. In April, Code Enforcement wrote a citation for operating a commercial business without a license; a license that can not be obtained until there is a request for a zoning change, a hearing, and an approval. Since April 2016 there have been at a minimum, graduation parties on 2 separate weekends, a wedding, and 2 other parties-one that included fireworks the weekend after the 4th of July.
In 2015 there was liquor served without a license, ads on Facebook to “drink til you drop”, loud music all night long, ads for an XXX lingerie party, numerous and ongoing complaints by citizens, and yet neither the noise ordinance nor the zoning ordinance was enforced and the parties were allowed to continue. Dr. Bennett bragged at a zoning hearing in December that he had never been cited.
In January 2016, Shane Sealy, P&Z Director over zoning and Code Enforcement said, “There should be no events, day or night, at Bennett Cove until there is hearing and approval of a special use permit.” After the so-called text amendment presented by Dr. Bennett was denied by the P&Z Board, Dr. Bennett proclaimed to everyone in the room (around 20 people) that it was his property and he would do what he wanted on his property. Since that time he has done exactly that, which unfortunately includes disturbing the peace, operating a commercial business without a license, having no health permit, collecting no tourism tax for overnight stays as required, trespassing on neighbors property, and a variety of other complaints by the surrounding neighbors. You can watch a neighbor detailing the problems in this video-
Captain Mike Steele of the JCSO, after finally complying with an open records request, confirmed NO citations have been issued by the JCSO from June 2015 until present.
In Washington, D.C. we see daily that those in power do not face consequences and do not have to follow the law. The same seems to be true in Jasper County. If you are a doctor or hold some other title, or if you have a certain last name, or if you are an elected official, you don’t have to worry about obeying the law. In fact, during the BOC discussion, the Sheriff said that he and Dr. Bennett’s lawyer were trying to come to a resolution. Really? If I decide to break the law every weekend, will I be able to continue to do so as long as I have a lawyer, and he and the Sheriff can work out a resolution? Is this how the law works now?
I always understood that everyone is equal under the law, justice is blind, and that the law will be applied equally to everyone. It now appears anyone and everyone can build a structure on their property, rent it out, and/or run any type of business they please. If one person is allowed to do so without consequence, then everyone should be allowed to do so. Once Jasper County gets a reputation for not enforcing the law, things will get out of hand very quickly.