A businessman claims a Confederate flag in front of his restaurant violates Orangeburg’s zoning ordinance and should be removed.
State Rep. Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg, filed paperwork Wednesday saying the flag in front of the Edisto River Creamery doesn’t meet the guidelines for the parcel’s general business district zoning.
“My concern is the use of that property does not comply with the classification for which the property is zoned,” Bamberg said. Bamberg is representing property owner Tommy Daras for free in the matter.
Bamberg filed his “request for verification of zoning compliance” with the City of Orangeburg Public Works Department.
He’s asking the department to review whether the display meets the city guidelines. Once a decision is made, it can be challenged before City Council, Bamberg said.
The Russell Street restaurant was once owned by avowed segregationist Maurice Bessinger, who raised Confederate flags on all his establishments in 2000. The move followed the flag’s removal from the Statehouse dome.
In 2005, he gave the Sons of Confederate Veterans Rivers Bridge Camp 842 a deed to a .003-acre parcel of land in front of the restaurant. The land holds a historical marker referencing Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s crossing of the Edisto River and a flag pole with a Confederate flag.
In his filing, Bamberg says, “If taken as the true and explicit purpose for which the subject property is used, the subject property is being used for historical purposes – not general business district purposes.”
He also challenged whether the display is being used for historical purposes, noting some people have questioned whether Sherman’s troops crossed the Edisto River at that point.
Bamberg’s filing claims the property “cannot be used solely for the primary purpose of political speech, hate speech, discrimination or other uses that have absolutely nothing to do with commercial or business uses. Nothing about the property’s use serves the community.”
SCV Camp 842 Commander Peter D. Boineau said he had no comment on the matter Wednesday afternoon.
Bamberg said the challenge to the flag is not a challenge to the SCV’s free speech rights, noting it is not residential property.
“This piece of property is a commercial piece of property specifically zoned for commercial,” he said. He said his concern is “use of that property does not comply with the classification for which the property is zoned.”
Bamberg previously said he planned to challenge the SCV deed to the property, saying both Daras and the SCV have deeds showing they own the property where the flag is located.
On Wednesday, Bamberg said he decided to deal with the zoning issue first.
“At the end of the day, all this is about is moving the Orangeburg community and the state forward,” he said.