INDIAN TRAIL – Neighbors rallied behind the owners of Whistle’s Body Shop, whose livelihoods were put in question after a zoning violation.
In April 2018, the Burrows family, who own Whistle’s Body Shop, received a letter saying they could no longer operate their automotive body shop and parts yard on the residential property as it was a zoning violation. Raymond Burrows Jr. said they were given 10 days to move.
The shop has been in operation out of the Burrows’ home on Ranch Drive since 1981, with no complaints from neighbors.
Burrows’ attorney James Allen Lee said the owners of the shop wanted a conditional rezoning that would include two separate residences with an auto body repair shop and an attached parts storage area.
The Union County Planning Board and town staff voted to recommend approval of the proposal because the business has been around for so long. County commissioners held a public hearing on the matter Oct. 7.
Several neighbors were at the public hearing to support the Burrows family.
“These are the best neighbors that you could ever imagine,” Bridget Baker told commissioners. “That’s why so many people are here in support of them. At the planning commission, the person who stood in opposition does not live in that neighborhood. And the person who filed that complaint does not live in that neighborhood. The neighbors support them. They are a valued part of our community.”
Raymond Burrows Jr. is one of the shop’s co-owners. He tearfully told commissioners he was shocked by the letter.
“I spend hundreds of dollars a year just to try to make a living here and to try to make that decent, like it should be,” Burrows said. “My dad’s 80 years old. He can’t do it anymore. It’s just me and my brother, and he doesn’t get to help full time. You don’t even know the shop’s there… unless you come up there behind the house to see it, then it’s behind the fence. If there wasn’t a sign, you wouldn’t even know it’s there. We try to do the right thing… and then I get this thing that says we’ve got 10 days to move.”
Burrows said his family was unaware of the zoning violations and thought they were following the correct procedures when they opened the body shop.
“When we started this thing, we thought we were doing the right thing,” Burrows said. “We got a license. We’re not trying to hurt anybody else. We’re just trying to make a decent living and support our family and the county that we live in.”
He also said he and his family have made a conscious effort to not disturb their neighbors.
“We don’t work on Saturdays and Sundays. We don’t work at nighttime. We don’t make loud noises,” Burrows said.
Other neighbors don’t have a problem with Burrows either.
“I bought property 41 years ago behind Raymond,” Coby Honeycutt said. “I’ve got six rental properties. I’ve never had one person tell me, ‘I don’t want to rent your property because you’ve got a junkyard on the corner.’ Every one of them, he’s helped. And most of them have moved to come back and do business with him.”
Lee said the Burrows family held a neighborhood meeting to address any concerns they had. Lee said one community member had concerns about the continuation of the parts storage area and asked if there could be a berm or vegetation screening between the properties, to which the Burrows family agreed.
Burrows said he does not expect the County to go “around the law” to help him, but he will do whatever it takes to keep his business running.
“We’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s like all of a sudden, we can be thrown to the side at the drop of a hat,” Burrows said. “I’m just asking for some help … I was always told to work and get what you earn, but I didn’t know it could be stricken away so easily. I’ll do anything I can do to make this work.