Gov't

Central Holds Its First Administrative Hearing

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By Beth Fussell

The following is an explanation of the administrative hearing process and a detailed summary of last Thursday's hearing.  Refer to this week's print version of CentralSpeaks.com for an abbreviated summary.

The City of Central held its first administrative hearing last week on Thursday, May 27th.  In accordance with an ordinance approved by the City Council, Central is now able to hold administrative hearings concerning alleged violations of city ordinances.  These ordinances can refer to public health, environment, housing, building regulations, fire codes, and any other ordinance type that the city deems appropriate for this hearing.

A procedure for these administrative hearings was set up in the ordinance.  The City of Central is required to give notice to an individual or entity suspected to be in violation of an ordinance.  The notice must include the sort of violation occuring, as well as the date, time, and location of the upcoming hearing.  This information must be presented at least 15 days prior to the hearing.  Failure to appear at a hearing constitutes a legal admission to the violation in question.  If the violation is addressed and the ordinance obeyed before the hearing date, the hearing can be cancelled.

During the hearing, testimony is given under oath, just as you would find in any courtroom setting.  Evidence may be supplied from both sides of the case, provided it is relevant and not repetitive.  The defendant may choose to be represented by an attorney.  The burden of proof will generally fall upon the city, as it is the job of the accusor to give evidence showing that the person or entity actually violated the ordinance in question.  Because of this, the city presents evidence and questions witnesses first, with the defendant being given the opportunity to respond afterward by cross-examining witnesses and presenting evidence to support his side of the case.  Judge Phil Miley has been appointed as the Administrative Hearing Officer for the City of Central.

 

Last Thursday's case was The City of Central vs. Louisiana Pride Produce and Seafood.  It has been alleged by the city that Louisiana Pride Produce and Seafood has been selling merchandise from a temporary structure at the corner of Magnolia Bridge and Greenwell Springs Roads.  This act is said to be in violation of Chapter 12, Section 250 of the Central City Code.  Mr. Steve Pizzolato, who owns Louisiana Pride with his wife Brandy, stated that he is just trying to make a livingand is willing to do what it takes to remain at that location selling his seafood and produce. 

The City of Central was represented by Mr. Ross A. Dooley, the City Attorney.  Mr. Dooley called six witnesses and submitted 19 documents as evidence for the city's case, including several city ordinances and documents.  Mr. Pizzolato chose to represent himself and to speak on his own behalf.  He brought with him the support of a Central community member, who stood behind Mr. Pizzolato's case and who spoke for Mr. Pizzolato's character near the end of the hearing.

Mrs. Pizzolato applied for and received a peddlers license in August of last year.  These licenses are provided by City Services, for which CH2M Hill currently holds the contract.  The license was given for the sale of seafood and produce at the corner of Magnolia Bridge and Greenwell Springs Road, where Louisiana Pride Produce and Seafood is currently doing business.  This license expired in December of 2009.  Mr. Pizzolato has not been allowed to renew this license due to an ordinance (2009-19) that passed last October prohibiting businesses with peddlers licenses from continuing to do business within the city limits. 

Some people will remember the January 26, 2010 City Council meeting at which this issue was brought forward on the agenda.  Councilman Washington, supported by four Central community members, made the motion to exempt from this ordinance businesses already holding these sorts of licenses.  This amedment would have allowed Mr. Pizzolato to renew his license, as he had held that license since August, before the ordinance outlawing them had been passed.  Mr. Pizzolato was one of the people who attended that meeting and spoke in favor of the amendment.  The motion failed, however, with a 2-3 vote.  Councilwoman Lansing supported Councilman Washington's motion with her vote.

Other ordinances presented by the city at the administrative hearing included 2009-23, 2010-01, and 2008-31.  The city maintained that Mr. Pizzolato has been selling goods from a temporary structure, an act not allowed by the City of Central.  It was also stated at the hearing that temporary structures with permits are only allowed to be used for 180 days in the city of Central, and the structures must meet wind standards (this is an international buiding code- not limited to Central).  Mr. Pizzolato does not currently hold a permit for his structure.  Sign permits and the blocking of roadside right-of-ways were also brought up by the city at the hearing as examples of violations committed by Louisiana Pride Produce and Seafood.

Mr. Pizzolato stated in his defense that he has spent considerable time and money cleaning up the corner where his business is currently located.  He has a monthly lease on the property, and he has plans to purchase a portion of the lot for a permanent business at that location.  He spoke about various other roadside produce sites that pop up occasionally around Central, and he feels that he has become a target.  Mr. Pizzolato ended his statement by saying that he would like to keep his business and would ultimately like for Louisiana Pride to become a permanent fixture in Central. 

Judge Miley will have 30 days from the date of the hearing to make his decision.  That decision will be put in writing and will be mailed to Mr. Pizzolato.

4 Comments

  1. resident

    June 3, 2010 at 7:13 am

    What about the City of Central creating ordinances that violate STATE LAW??? I have a letter from the Attorney General Buddy Caldwell stating that Ordinance #2007-04 is in clear violation of State Law and it remains on the books. Why? Should we bring this to an “Administrative Hearing”?

  2. Donna Dufour

    June 3, 2010 at 8:06 am

    What is ordinance Ordinance #2007-04?

  3. beth

    June 3, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Ordinance 2007-04 addresses mobile homes in Central. It was passed by City Council in April 2007. It has conditions that have to be met for any mobile home moved into or erected in Central after the ordinance passed. It refers to things like the size and thickness of the concrete slab that has to be under the mobile home, mobile home skirting, and the visibility of electrical and sewage hookups. Many of the city ordinances can be found online on the city website (centralgov.com) under “city documents.” I don’t know anything about the legality of this ordinance when it comes to state law, though.

  4. resident

    June 3, 2010 at 9:55 am

    State Law preempts local ordinances. The state law requires local municipalities to follow the guidelines set by HUD (the feds)when determining installation of Manufactured homes. Nowhere does HUD REQUIRE you to pour a slab for a manufactured home. That what Central is or was trying to do. To MAKE you do something above and beyond what is required. I fought them for a year about it. I am a single mother and work for the State. I could not afford to pour a slab. Therefore, making it impossible for me to aquire affordable housing for myself and my daughter. I researched the State Law, brought it to the attention of the Mayor, City Council and the Planning and Zonning people, and provided copies of the law to each of them. They treated me like I didn’t know what I was talking about, but I didn’t go away. I knew I was right. I even spoke to several legislators that created the law, they agreed with me. The City Council would NOT put me on the agenda so that I could “formally” plead my case, but did ask for an Attorney General Opinion on the legality of the ordinance. Finally, the builder agreed to pay for the concrete that the city “required” to make the sale. Several months after I finally moved in, the Opinion came back and he also agreed that the ordinance was indeed in violation of state law. I was told by a member of the Council that it was just an opinion and they were not going to take the ordinance off the books. And of course, it’s still there, but they are not enforcing it anymore. I want it GONE. Am I wrong for wanting it off the books?

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