Wednesday, December 31, 2008

JACKPOT! (Ka-ching... ka-ching... ka-ching...)

Nothing is sweeter than revising assumptions and revisiting unchallenged claims - and blowing those claims to hell!

Here I recap my progression from naïveté to hardened cynicism...

1. I originally assumed TLC Catering was a legal business, with law-abiding owners who had the necessary neighborliness to mitigate any noise or other nuisance their business might generate in a residential area. My neighbor, Lynda Allen, immediately gutted that assumption with her caustic and intimidating communication tactics. She stridently chanted her mantra, "I have a legally grandfathered business," while clutching and waving some yellowed papers in her ancient fingers. The City of Manteca had apparently given her some reason to believe that. Who was I to argue with both neighbor and City Hall?

2. I assumed a "legal business" would be subject to a City of Manteca noise ordinance. After suffering an insufferable summer of sleep deprivation caused by an equally ancient Scotsman commercial icemaker, improperly installed outdoors and too close to my fence line and house, I was driven to file a series of written complaints outlining the depth, breadth, and seriousness of the problem. The city ignored my initial letters and public statements at city council meetings. This led me to stumble upon the fact that this was a "new" noise ordinance, and never would apply to a grandfathered business. My research began in earnest. For many months - and until it was too late - the city did not even try to measure the noise nor to enforce the "old" ordinance.

3. I assumed a "legal business" would be subject to a City of Manteca business permit. Manteca personnel dispatched that thought with the simplistic argument that the "activity next door was not a business" and did not need a business permit because TLC Catering did not transact any retail sales in Manteca's city limits. The city has NEVER issued TLC Catering a Business Permit for Revenue, and still refuses to acknowledge all of the non-retail activities of an actively operating business by requiring a Business Permit for Regulation Only.

4. I assumed a "legal business" would be subject to a City of Manteca permit for a Home Occupation because business or non-business activity of a non-residential character in a residential zone requires one (also known as a Conditional Use Permit prior to 1992.) TLC Catering has NEVER had such a permit. Code enforcement officers, Manteca Chief of Police, Manteca planning (zoning) personnel, and the Manteca Director of Community Development have all waffled so badly with mealy-mouthed answers to this one that I am still unsure if they know what Municipal Code sections apply.

5. My research turned up a 1993 letter from the City wherein TLC Catering's operations were declared a "legal but non-conforming use" of property. (This must be where Lynda Allen's mantra came from.) I assumed that the TLC Catering commissary business expansion, which occurred in 1994, would be restricted from grandfathering according to the letter's explanation, or at least be subject to Manteca's 1992 Home Occupation ordinance. That supposition was blasted when a code enforcement officer took it upon himself to misinterpret common law and write, "I am not necessarily in agreement..." (I know where this one is going...)

Finally, I revisited the original assumption - grandfathering at annexation.

- - - - - IF:

* Prior to December 17, 1986,

* A catering truck business was operating on that property, and

* It was doing so legally,

- - - - - THEN, it would be grandfathered for:

* The continued use of that property,

* At no greater than existing level and scope of business use,

* By the current and subsequent property owners,

* Until the non-conforming use ceases.


Until now, I have never argued that TLC Catering was an illegal business; only that its use of residential property was illegal. I have questioned the legality of the business expansion resulting in a full commissary on the property. But now it appears that the entire business - all operations, assets, equipment (especially the icemaker), and large and small business jetsam - is illegally occupying a residential property.

The only question remaining is: Did Lewis Mego and Anne Mego, the former property owners, operate a legal catering truck business on the property on December 17, 1986, and until they sold the property to Lynda Allen and Theresa Brassey eleven months later, on November 10, 1987?

If the Mego's had a catering truck business AND a legal land use permit from San Joaquin County, then that business use would be grandfathered. However, all indications so far are that my neighbors purchased the property from the Mego's and THEN began to establish an unpermitted and illegal business operation on residential property within Manteca city limits.


Stay tuned for the next episode of this long-running soap opera...


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