A circuit court judge agrees that the Confederate flag in front of the Edisto River Creamery does not violate the City of Orangeburg's zoning ordinance.
The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals previously decided the Sons of Confederate Veterans Rivers Bridge Camp #842 could keep the flag on the land it owns in front of the restaurant. The owner of the Creamery wants it gone.
Circuit Court Judge Maite Murphy wrote in Friday’s order that, “the use of the property by Rivers Bridge Camp #842 did not violate the zoning ordinance or regulations.” City officials previously, “found that the zoning ordinance and other regulations of the city do not regulate the location, height, flag content or flag poles."
The matter came before the court on Dec. 17 on appeal of a decision by the city's Board of Zoning Appeals.
The dispute stems from a small parcel of land at the corner of Russell Street and John C. Calhoun Drive. It was given to the Sons of Confederate Veterans Rivers Bridge Camp 842 by the restaurant’s previous owner for a historical display including the flag.
The restaurant’s current owner, Tommy Daras, wants the display gone. His attorney, state Rep. Justin Bamberg, argued the historical display violates the City of Orangeburg’s zoning since the land is zoned for commercial property.
The city’s Zoning Administrator determined the display is not prohibited and the decision was later upheld by the city's Zoning Board of Appeals before being brought before the Circuit Court.
"We are gratified to learn today that the Circuit Court has agreed with the Orangeburg Zoning Board that our memorial marker and flag, which is located near The Edisto Gardens on property owned by the Rivers Bridge Camp, does not violate any zoning regulations of the city," said Buzz Braxton, 1st Lt. Commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Rivers Bridge Camp 842.
"The Rivers Bridge Camp and the Sons of Confederate Veterans stands for a heritage of freedom for which all Southerners, of all races can be proud," Braxton continued in his prepared statement. "We hold ill feelings toward no one, but like our ancestors before us, we will continue to stand up to defend our right of free expression against those who would seek to deny it."
Bamberg, who represented Daras for free, said he’s disappointed.
"I think, unfortunately, the court did get it wrong. Nonetheless, we respect the court's decision,” he said.
Bamberg said he is still evaluating whether to appeal the court's order, although he says he is leaning not toward challenging it.
"The way the order was written, there is not a whole bunch in writing that I think we will be able to use on appeal," he said.
Daras could not be reached for comment Friday evening.
Lauren Martel, attorney for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said, "I am so grateful the law prevailed and that the judge took her time and did a good job and reviewed all the facts and evidence presented at the hearing level. She made a well-founded order and it is a victory for the Constitution and victory for freedom and land use.
"It really has nothing to do with racism or any sort of emotional decision. It was all done on the law and free use of property."
Daras has closed the Creamery and is in the process of selling or leasing it, citing his inability to run the business successfully due to the controversy surrounding the flag.
"I am proud of the fact that we stood up for what we felt like was the right side," Bamberg said. "At the end of the day, we know that through our challenge, we are going to end up on the right side of history and on the right page of the history books."