Land Board says no to massage business near Sardis Lake

Published 4:57 am Wednesday, August 16, 2023

More than 25 neighbors protested the application of a business permit for a massage therapy business on Sardis Lake Drive, northeast of Batesville, at the August meeting of the Panola County Land Commission Monday night at the Sardis Courthouse.

My Dung Ma has been operating a private service business with a county license from a small camper at 2835 Sardis Lake Drive, and on an property she owns nearby, for several years, the neighbors said. Several addressed the board after the applicant asked for a license.

My Dung Ma said her business is mostly mobile and that she usually meets clients at the homes or in hotels in Batesville and Oxford. The camper on Sardis Lake Dr., she said, is only used a couple of times a month for clients who prefer a “clinical setting.”

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“The table is forty five pounds and heavy and I don’t always want to travel to a hotel to meet my clients,” she said. 

Speaking in opposition were neighbors who contradicted her statements to the commission members, saying that they observe cars coming and going throughout nights, some with out of state tags.

Mark Spooner was one of those opposing the licensing of a massage business. “We don’t want this,” he said. “This is a lake community with a residential area. We’ve recently had a church just pop up across the street with no sign of permits or anything so I’m wondering what’s next. Is it going to be a bingo parlor or something else that somebody is going to throw up at the drop of a hat?”

William Fielder said he has owned property on Sardis Lake Drive for 40 years, and saw the potential licensing as a threat to the well being of the close knit community.

“Everyone who knows her knows what she is,” Fielder said. “Nobody wants it, nobody likes it. I’m horizontally opposed to it. We would love to be rid of her. This is still America, but as far as I’m concerned she can go to Oxford and meet her Johns there.”

Additionally, Dew Fields, who works in the Permit Office, told the board his inspection of the camper convinced him that its condition was subpar and shouldn’t be considered for any type of commercial business.

In other actions Monday, the Land Commission:

  • Approved a request from Robert Webster, Jr., to sell T-shirts, hats, and snacks from a small outbuilding on his property at 175 Henry Dr., in Courtland. Webster said his wings and nachos are local favorites and friends asked him to open a business.
  • Approved an application for a auto body repair shop at 2541-A Nash Rd., west of Batesville. Eleazar Rios, Jr., has been operating the shop for about 10 years and only recently applied for a permit when the Code Office made him aware that a certificate was needed. Permit Office director Chad Meek told board members that an inspection of Rios’ shop received a top grade. “I wish all our shops were as clean as his,” Meek said.
  • Approved the reclassification of property at 9873 Hwy. 6, just west of ACI Building, from agricultural to commercial at the request of James Russell and Patricia Paris. The two are seeking to open High Caliber Training, a truck driving academy for people wanting to become licensed commercial truck drivers. The owners were not asking for a permit operate the business, only to have the land classification changed. They will come before the board later when the business is ready to open, they said. Russell said they plan to have five 18-wheelers at the location to train potential drivers and will make use of the several highways that connect to Batesville as will as the federal interstate and railroad crossings.
  • Approved the application of Michael Carter to open Mom and Pop’s Cabinet Shop at his property at 2732-A Pope Water Valley Rd. Carter said he will begin building cabinets at the location to sell at his furniture store in Marks, but may also take orders from homeowners.
  • Denied the application of Tony Armstrong to open Blessed Auto & BBQ on property he owns at 23196-A Hwy. 6E. Armstrong, a former car salesman in Oxford, told board members he wants to sell used cars and make to-go orders at the location, which is about 2,000 feet south of Hwy. 6 at the end of a driveway he uses with an easement shared by several  other property owners. Speaking in opposition to the application, Gil Bridges told board members that Armstrong, who raises sheep and goats for his side food business, doesn’t keep his animals fenced properly and doesn’t maintain the driveway enough to have a business. Board members agreed, with some questioning whether commercial businesses were allowed to be located on driveways not owned by the business operator.