Town plays favorites, after all

The town has consistently said the past year that it has treated Josh’s Farmers Market the same as it treats every other business in Mooresville. 

In fact, in Monday’s town board meeting, Commissioner Tommy Deweese, in reflecting on one year he’s spent as an elected official, stated: “The popularity status or position of an individual or business should not affect how we apply and follow the (rule of law). No one is above or immune to these laws. The laws … apply to everyone equally.”

But public records reveal that’s simply not true. 

In fact, while town planners have repeatedly stalked Josh’s Farmers Market (JFM), snapping photos from a nearby parking lot before the market is even open for business and looking for any reason to cite Owner Josh Graham for violations, they’ve conveniently looked the other way for two other outdoor seasonal sales businesses in town that are comparable to JFM.

The “rule of law”

Since adopting its new Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) in February 2022, the town does not limit the number of days per year that outdoor seasonal sales businesses can operate. But it does limit the number of days those businesses can operate on the same parcel of property. 

The UDO reads that outdoor seasonal sales — which include fireworks and seasonal agricultural products such as fruits, vegetables, meats, living plants, pumpkins and Christmas trees — “shall be limited in duration to a maximum of 120 days and there shall not be more than 3 seasonal sales on a lot per calendar year.” 

The town interprets this to mean that one parcel of property can host outdoor seasonal sales for a maximum of 120 days per calendar year. Those days can be used together or spaced apart. But the parcel is maxed out for the year after three seasonal sales or 120 total days — whichever comes first. 

For JFM, which operates nine months out of the year, that means the market has to tear down and move after 120 days, or approximately four months, on the same parcel of property. 

In recent weeks, the market maxed out its 120 days at the site of the former Lions Club building at 630 Brawley School Road and moved to 558 River Highway, beside Duckworth’s Grill & Taphouse, where it will finish its 2023 season.

Selective leniency

The town has provided no wiggle room for JFM in the 120-day ordinance, even stressing that the allotted days include set up and tear down of the market. Once the permit for JFM had expired on the YMCA property last fall, the town considered the market an illegal business, and it took measures to cite the YMCA as such, issuing notices of violation for everything on the property related to the market, down to signs that directed the elderly to curbside parking. 

When the market moved to the old Lion’s Club property at 630 Brawley School Road, it was welcomed by Code Compliance Officer Rebecca Saunders, who was stalking the market from a nearby parking lot, taking pictures to later cite JFM for placing fresh gravel on an old gravel parking lot and having a wooden swing on the property that was meant for customer use.


Meanwhile, practically just across the street from that location, at 675 Brawley School Road, the town allowed a different outdoor seasonal sales business to operate for 139 days in 2022 — 19 days more than the UDO allows, public records show. Even when the business wasn’t operating and the property wasn’t permitted for outdoor seasonal sales, the town didn’t seem to notice the sign, tent frame and dozens of concrete blocks and pallets that were left on the property.

So far in 2023, the Town of Mooresville has granted permits for that property to host outdoor seasonal sales for 112 days. If the laws were enforced equally, that property would have eight remaining days for outdoor seasonal sales this year. But if the town permits the same number of days it did last year for Christmas tree sales on that parcel (38 days), then the property will have been permitted for 150 days this year — a month longer than the UDO allows. 

Another example: The town, according to public records, permitted a parcel of property at 136 Morrison Plantation Parkway to be used for outdoor seasonal sales a grand total of 158 total days in 2022 — 38 days longer than the UDO allows. So far in 2023, the property was permitted for 49 days of outdoor seasonal sales for spring. The property is currently hosting an outdoor seasonal sales business for the fall season. If the town approves the same number of days this fall as it did last fall (97 days) for the property, then it will have permitted 146 days of use on that particular parcel of property — 26 more days than the “law” allows.

Meanwhile, when Josh’s Farmers Market had closed its most recent location at 630 Brawley School Road, the town’s code compliance officer was there, keeping eyes on the market as usual. 

But back to Deweese’s comments on Monday: “We sometimes are accused of being harsh simply because we are following the rule of law and enforcing it equally.” 

Should the town fail to apply the rules of law equally, he said, “the town should certainly be called out for it.”

About the cover photo: 

On Oct. 15, 2022, Town Manager Randy Hemann took to the town’s official Facebook page with a lengthy diatribe explaining how Josh’s Farmers Market was operating outside the town’s brand-new ordinances. As part of that statement, he wrote: “The Town of Mooresville is proud of the partnerships we have with the approximately 1,800 businesses that call Mooresville home. We hope that Josh’s Farmers Market is able to continue to serve the residents of and visitors to Mooresville within the same guidelines that govern other businesses in our community.”


7 thoughts on “Town plays favorites, after all

  1. This just goes to show how unfair the towns Planning and Zoning is to certain businesses just like Josh’s Farmers Market. I believe the UDO was written just to run this popular man and his business out of town .
    The UDO needs to be redone and with a Planning and Zoning Department with all new and honest staff.
    Apparently Mr. Deweese was only told what they wanted him to hear and believe .
    Thank you Jamie for all your tireless work and reporting to keep the public informed of all the bad things that are taking place in our town .
    If I am elected you can rest assured that I will speak out on everything I find out that is not kosher regardless of what department is doing it.

  2. Have No in Mooresville got any common sense. WTF Shame on you and all the board for nipping in the Bud. Dirty Potlicking ing the cause.

  3. I am so ashamed to say that Mooresville doesn’t support small business’s that only grow because of their customers and they make up laws to take aim at Joshes Market they just need to stop and support those who bring business to mooresville and small business support. Vote out the old and vote for the new !!!!

  4. It’s high time the people of our community rally together and kick the manipulation and lack of honesty to the curb! There are far more mooresville residents, like myself, that have had a mooresville address all their lives but because of zoning/district lines we can’t use our voice and vote! It’s up to ones who can and should to make these changes. Thank you Jaime for your diligence to our town! We need more people like you who are willing to stand up, be loud, and be fearless!

  5. Seems the TOM might have a upcoming legal problem to deal with?

    Incredible reporting!
    Keep up the awesome work!

  6. It is totally obvious that the NEW UDO was written to cover everything Josh’s Farmers Market sold. This was due to the fact that Randy, when he first met Josh, had NOT been aware of his business across the bridge! When he realized how popular the Market was, he wanted Josh to pay more taxes. But because of the open market, he couldn’t be taxed according to a walled building per “Town Law”. Instead of changing that, Randy decided to try to close him down. The Board Members knew this! Instead of being honest, this practice was approved. Just another reason, the Board has not acted in a Conscientious and Just way in regards to a single business. Now if Josh had offered money under the table to “BUY” their rulings, would the results have been different?? This is such a pity as I don’t know of any harder workers in the Town than those that help run the Market!!! Pushing paper decisions definitely don’t equal sweat & long hours of ware & tear!

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About Author

Hi! I’m Jaime

I was a newspaper reporter in Mooresville, NC for a decade and covered local government issues from 2003 to 2006.


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