Vincent Cal of Greenwood is scheduled to appear in court at 10 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 17, for the start of his self-requested jury trial for operating Cal’s Market without a business license.
Cal opened the market after being told that the property on which he wanted to operate was zoned residential and he would have to pay to have it rezoned commercial. Costs to Cal were estimated at an initial fee of $6,000, $100 per hour for research purposes and any consulting fees that were accrued. Then he was told it could take from 18 months to two years or longer with no guarantees in his favor.
Believing that the El Dorado County Building Services Department was in error in its zoning map, Cal requested a fee waiver from the county Board of Supervisors for any rezoning purposes.
“I’m not willing to pay for the rezoning when I think it’s all in error,” said Cal, who provided a copy of the “Zone Change and General Plan Amendment” that states a General Plan amendment could be made if “it has been determined that an error occurred in the development of the General Plan,” among two other possible circumstances.
After his attorney Rachael Miller filed for a continuance from his last court appearance on Sept. 16 to give the Board of Supervisors more time to look at the issue and possibly “correct” the error “with the stroke of a pen,” Cal received a letter from the Chief Administrative Office dated Sept. 12 and postmarked Sept. 22. The letter or memo was sent to Supervisor Ron Briggs stating that the “Board of Supervisors Policy B-2 authorizes the chief administrative officer to waive fees for projects that meet one of the following specified criteria:”
a. The levying of the fee in question would result in extreme financial hardship to the requesting entity;
b. The applicant has been delayed due to actions taken by the county;
c. A facility or project proposed by a non-profit corporation or special district will provide a substantial public benefit;
d. There is no actual cost to the county for the expense in question. For example, if the Building Department is required to inspect a structure, the fee related to providing this service will be levied. However, if inspection is not required, the fee may be waived;
e. The project is being carried out by a local public agency and is an emergency project;
f. The project is being carried out by a private agency primarily to address unresolved life threatening and/or fire safety issues for the public.
The memo goes on to say, “Based on the information provided in your June 28 letter, a fee waiver is inappropriate for this project as it does not initially appear to meet the criteria of Policy B-2. Policy B-2 does not allow the chief administrative officer to waive fees based on independent judgment of the project’s merit, or its popular support.”
The timing of the letter (dated Sept. 12) was five days prior to Miller (Cal’s public defender) even asking for the continuance to give the Board of Supervisors more time to look at the issue. Then the letter wasn’t actually postmarked until Sept. 22.
“There are so many things that don’t add up,” said Cal, 70. For instance, “On the tax rolls, the only thing that exists is the old house; the store and cottage (a smaller building on the property) are not even on the tax rolls. They tell me that it’s zoned commercial all the way around me, but I’m the only commercial property on Main Street. Why would everybody in the neighborhood want to be zoned commercial and the one commercial property want to be zoned residential? It just doesn’t make sense.”
But, according to his most recently received letter, the Board of Supervisors “looked into it and say there’s no error,” said Cal, who went ahead and opened his market last November after trying to work with the county for the year prior. “I thoroughly expect it (the court date) will be continued.”
Cal had hoped to open a bed and breakfast in the “old house,” but those dreams were dashed with the non-issuance of his business license.
Another issue of possible contention is that Cal’s public defender is the daughter of Jim and Ruth Miller, who operate the Georgetown Gas N Go. Cal said it could be a conflict of interest for her to be defending him trying to operate a store in Greenwood, when her parents operate a store in Georgetown.
“I hate to have another public defender appointed and I really can’t afford to hire an attorney, but if that’s what I have to do, then so be it,” Cal said, adding that a couple of attorneys have offered to defend him pro bono just to sue the county, but he said that’s not what he wants. He also said they told him they can find no precedence on this issue from which they can work.
“They’ve never had anybody stand up like this before,” he said. “I’ve never done anything like this before either.”
Although Cal does not own the property on which Cal’s Market is located, he signed a 10-year lease with the owners, Jack and Avis Prince.
“I have contended all along that they (the county) were in error,” said Cal, who copied a page out of Paolo Sioli’s “History of El Dorado County California” showing that the home and store in Greenwood have been there since at least 1883 when the book was published.
Cal also provided a copy of the 2007 California Historical Building Code that states in Section 8-302.1 under “existing use” that “the use or character of occupancy of a qualified historical building or property, or portion thereof, shall be permitted to continue in use regardless of any period of time in which it may have remained unoccupied or in other uses, provided such building or property otherwise conforms to all applicable requirements of the CHBC (California Historical Building Code).”
“They treat me like I want special privileges, but that’s not true. I’m not trying to be better than anybody else; I just want them to correct an error that they made. They have just done whatever they want. It’s like everything is designed to extract additional funds out of you.”
Although the district attorney has asked the judge to close down Cal’s Market, the judge has said no.
“I wonder if he knows I’m right,” said Cal, adding that the business has increased the tax base, increased sales tax and created a little bit of employment for the small hamlet of Greenwood.
“I don’t see what’s so bad.”
Readers and community members are invited to the first anniversary of Cal’s Market, which will feature live music and is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 20, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.