Published: Feb 26, 2012 02:00 AM
Modified: Feb 25, 2012 11:27 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Orange County Gymnastics, which offers classes and camps for children ages 18 months to 18 years, faces closure after being asked to leave University Mall.
The company has rented a commercial space in the mall since Jan. 1 while its permanent building was being fixed by the town. But the mall space is zoned for commercial retail use so Orange County Gymnastics has to go, said Peter de Leon, mall manager, and Dwight Bassett, the town's economic development director.
"The space is designed for retail or mercantile usage, and what the Orange County Gymnastics is is an assembly usage and ... that puts them into a different class of inspection for code regulation," de Leon said.
The mall couldn't afford to renovate the space for the group, de Leon said. In the end, the town and mall have to follow state and federal occupancy rules, he said. The company must leave by Wednesday, de Leon said.
Bassett said though the town often gets blamed for occupancy rules and enforcement, they are state and federal rules, he said. If the town does not enforce those rules, the state can come in and do it.
It's important for businesses to check with the town and get the right permits before they move into new spaces, Bassett said. Orange County Gymnastics did not do that with this space, he said.
"We've had so many of these cases in the last 12 months," he said. "If someone looking to occupy the space had checked it with the town ahead of time, we could have prevented this problem from ending up the way it ended up," he said.Repairs too expensive
Tim Baker owns, manages and is a coach at Orange County Gymnastics. He bought the business in December and changed the name from Sportart Gymnastics, which had been in Chapel Hill at 2200 Homestead Road for 30 years, he said.
Soon after Baker bought the business, he learned the building he leased on Homestead Road, which is owned by the town, had significant structural problems, he said.
The town started repairs and the company left the building for two months and moved into University Mall.
But the town kept finding more problems, more than $200,000 worth of work it couldn't afford to fix, he said.
"Now we're basically stuck," Baker said. "Our lease here has run out with the mall. The other building is not being renovated, is basically being shut down, and we have no place to go."
The company is trying to find another space, Baker said. If it can't do that, it will have to shut down classes.
Orange County Gymnastics has 260 students and offers semester-long classes as well as birthday party and family open gym days on Saturdays, he said.