Wednesday, September 26, 2007
How can one sell enchiladas from an open-air trailer on one’s own lot in St. Paul? That was the dilemma faced by Jose Ponce, who ran a food business called “Mi Pueblito” in the Minnesota capital, and may do so again after winning a land use case yesterday against the city government (Ponce v. City of St. Paul, No. A06-1883 (Minn. Ct. App. Sept. 25, 2007)).
From my reading of the facts, Ponce got stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one side, St. Paul’s zoning ordinance required him to get a conditional use permit to operate a “fixed” and “outdoor” business; on the other hand, he was in effect told by the city that he shouldn’t apply for a renewal of the permit because his stand violated a state law against operating a “mobile” stand for more than 21 days. (In fact, this appears to have been a misreading of the law). After losing a hearing and decision before an administrative law judge, Ponce appealed to the court and finally obtained relief. Because he was in effect misled about violating the “mobile” law, he was unfairly dissuaded from renewing his conditional use permit. The Court reinstated his permit to allow him time to reapply.
This is the sort of case that restores our faith in due process, and shows that every person may, through perseverance, earn their just sopapillas.