By John Mullen
Orange Beach business owner John “Tater” Harris has filed suit against the city of Gulf Shores after his application for a business license to rent golf carts in the city was denied. Named in the suit besides the city are the city council and Revenue Supervisor Layla Andrews.
“Petitioner alleges that the Defendants’ denial of his application was arbitrary, capricious and unlawful,” the suit, filed on Aug. 4, states. “Defendants’ denial is contrary to established Alabama Law, the City Code, City Ordinances, and Defendants’ prior actions and grant of licenses to others similarly situated to Petitioner. Upon information and belief, Defendants have granted other businesses licenses to sell, rent and/or operate golf carts and other similar vehicles as Petitioner sought approval for. Additionally, numerous City residents own and utilize such vehicles with city limits.”
The city presented its case denying the application at a council work session on July 18 and then voted it down in a regular session on July 25. Harris was sent a formal letter advising him the application had been denied.
During the two council sessions, Andrews and Deputy Police Chief Dan Netemeyer cited several instances by Gulf Coast Rental Co. where carts were being rented in the city even though Harris had no business license and they were found in areas of town where it’s not legal to operate golf carts.
“On April 7 we received an application from an Orange Beach golf cart rental company that is requesting to rent golf carts in Gulf Shores,” Andrews told the council on July 18. “Upon the application, Deputy Chief, Sgt. Josh Coleman and myself had met with the applicant to explain to him about the current ordinance that we have in place for golf cart communities and designated streets. We explained to him that the golf cart activity or rentals could only happen in the designated street areas, private roadways or private campgrounds.”
Netemeyer said Gulf Coast Rental Co. owned by Harris rented carts a handful of times and in areas where they are not currently allowed.
“We’ve had multiple incidents with the applicant already,” Netemeyer said. “On that particular day one of his golf carts was seen down on 59 I believe on the sidewalk. On May 14 we had an incident with a golf cart that was rented by him and delivered into Gulf Shores in a nonauthorized area.”
Carts aren’t allowed anywhere on beach road and only on designated roads with speed limits of 25 mph or less.
“They are not authorized down there,” Netemeyer said of the beach area. “We had another incident on July 5 down on West Beach where one of his carts was observed by a renter being driven. We have a history of him dropping off carts in prohibited areas here in Gulf Shores. The police department concurs with the recommendation to deny this business license.”
Harris’ suit asks for a hearing on the matter as soon as possible and eventually lead up to a trial in Baldwin County Circuit Court.
“Petitioner’s rights were violated by said Application denial,” the filing states. “Petitioner asks the Court to set its application for a preliminary injunction for hearing at the earliest possible date, and upon hearing, issue a preliminary injunction against Defendants in terms consistent with the evidence. Petitioner also seeks a permanent injunction against Defendants and requests this Court set this matter for a full trial on the merits, and after the trial, issue a permanent injunction against Defendants in the terms consistent with the evidence.”
Harris is represented by Mobile attorney Jordan Gerheim who is also asking for all photographs, emails and any city documents related to Harris’ application.
By John Mullen