On Tuesday, May 1, major cities and businesses across the nation were disrupted and experienced violent occupiers in support of what they celebrate as International Workers Day, known as Labor Day in many countries around the world. Greenwood occupiers at Cal’s Market, however, stood their ground peacefully in support of local businessman Vincent Cal.
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Carrying signs with slogans that read “Permit It,” “Occupy Everything,” “Support Cal’s” and “Less Regulations More Ice Cream,” occupiers greeted each other with hugs, handshakes and familiarity. The local businessman goes to trial July 10 in El Dorado County Superior Court for operating his business without a license much to the disapproval of the 40-50 people present. Cars passing by honked their horns in support of the “unrest,” which was far from disobedient (as no public or private property was damaged), but still carried an air of rebellion.
Caught in a quandary of bureaucratic red tape, Cal was supported by members of the Divide Chamber of Commerce and the Greenwood Civic Organization, just to name a few who showed up at the recent Chamber of Commerce “mixer” in support of the small, local business.
Since fall of 2010, Cal has been in an ongoing dispute with El Dorado County planning and zoning officials as to whether he could operate a small grocery store on Main Street in Greenwood. The property in question originally was a grocer in the late part of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century, but when Cal went to apply for a business license to operate the somewhat bare-bones store, he was told that the former commercial property had been rezoned residential. At one time it was a “76 Gasoline” station.
After several months of meeting with county building and zoning officials, receiving numerous citations for “operating without a business license,” and court sessions that discussed land use with experts on both sides, Cal was issued a jury trial court date last Monday.
“I always said I wanted a ‘speedy’ jury trial,” Cal said to the numerous occupying supporters on Tuesday. “But I didn’t expect it to be a criminal trial.”
That’s right. Cal will be tried as a criminal on July 10; that’s what brought Divide Chamber President Ken Calhoon to the premises on Tuesday.
“Most of us would probably pay the fee or close the doors and that would be the end of it,” said Calhoon following the occupy movement. “But Cal is an independent soul who is risking his freedom to make a point. I can’t believe the district attorney doesn’t have more important issues than to close down a small little general store in Greenwood and prosecute the owner on criminal charges. That’s not rational.”
Referring to the “David and Goliath” story, Calhoon spoke to the irrationality of rezoning commercial property to residential; commercial property is taxed at a much different rate.
“Why would the Planning Department zone a commercial property on Main Street residential?” he asked. “This issue might not be on anyone’s radar living in El Dorado Hills, but this is a real issue to the Divide.”
According to previous conversations with the Planning and Zoning Department, property owners apply to “rezone” parcels, not the county. Reportedly the property was rezoned residential in the 1970s. Cal, who has a 10-year lease on the property, said he had eventually wanted to open a bed and breakfast in the large house behind the store, where he used to buy fishing supplies in the 1950s. Without a business license, however, even a small grocery store is illegal in the eyes of the county.
“The community wants a little neighborhood store,” said Calhoon. “This permit issue isn‘t going to be settled by some county bureaucrat reading the book. Someone needs to get up from behind their desk and come out here, be creative and work with this guy so he can sell a few groceries.”
Calhoon added that the next thing would be the DA prosecuting fruit stand operators or kids selling cookies or lemonade, perhaps not so far from the truth since the county implemented its certified kitchen ordinance for selling home-baked items to the public.
Fruit stands have to have itinerant mechant permits from the sheriff.
The proverbial “time will tell,” however, prevails in this issue.
The chamber-sponsored “occupy” event went over very well, with people coming and going as their schedules allowed.
“It was a fun chamber mixer and showed the business community’s support for Cal and his efforts to fight city hall and the establishment,” Calhoon said.
Chamber mixers are held the first Tuesday of each month at a different business location on the Divide. For more information on becoming a chamber member or attending a chamber function, contact Calhoon at 885-9590 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.