I am disappointed about the way that the BOA hearing went yesterday. It was very frustrating to me as a citizen to watch our appointed officials struggle to do their job on my behalf. In my opinion, they failed miserably. I am not a lawyer so my analysis may be fundamentally flawed, but this is how I saw the events at the BOA hearing:
There can be no disagreement that the statute(s) in question are poorly written and ambiguous. However, I believe that the BOA "missed the boat" completely. Instead of focusing on the literal meaning of each and every word in the statute, they should have been focused on the spirit of the law and what the law was intended to allow (or prohibit).
I believe that the use of the term "prima facia" in the statute is there for a good reason. It is there to give citizens and the Inspections Department to opportunity to call attention to activities that "may" be in violation of existing zoning laws. This is appropriate because in most cases, ordinary citizens do not have all of the relevant information needed to make a determination of what is an appropriate activity and what is not. Nor does the Inspections Department. Their job is to respond to complaints (legitimate or otherwise) and take appropriate action.
It is the responsibility of the BOA to dig deeper. If an activity appears "prima facia" to be a prohibited activity (a business in this case) it is the responsibility of the BOA to take "a SECOND look"! They should look beyond the Prima Facia aspects of the activity. They are in a position to take sworn testimony and determine beyond Prima Facia if the activity in question is in fact a prohibited activity. It is their responsibility to determine if the activity is in violation of the SPIRIT of the law. In this case, it was their responsibility to determine if the activity constituted a "business". Based upon the testimony given and the formal definitions agreed to by all parties present, it was clear that the activity did NOT constitute a business. Thus, the spirit of the law had not been violated and the citation should have been overturned. It is just that simple.
Instead, the BOA became so engrossed in interpreting the specific language of the statute that they managed to convince themselves that the statute prohibits any activity that "looks like a business", regardless of whether it is actually a business or not. If that was the intent of the law, then there really is no reason to have the BOA at all. Anyone could come forward and say "This looks like a business to me" and that would be sufficient to constitute a violation of the statute as the BOA has interpreted it... "if it looks like a business it is in violation".
What a waste of time and resources.
Great article! This cuts through all of the confusion and mis-information with a clear explaination of the choices we face. I hope we cam make a choice that is not shortsighted. Thanks Bob!
Great article! This cuts through all of the confusion and mis-information with a clear explaination of the choices we face. Thanks Bob!
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