Cat Condo Peddler Denied Permit

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The cat condo vendor who has been a fixture in front of the Best Western Inn of Payson for three years has filed an appeal after being rebuffed by the Payson Planning and Zoning Commission.

Bill Winn, who sells homemade cat furniture to supplement his Social Security income, was denied a conditional-use permit to continue selling his wares when the commission tied 3-3 on the matter Monday. Winn's request for another hearing is based on the fact that Commissioner Hallie Overman -- the potential tie-breaking vote -- was absent. If a motion generates a tie vote, it is considered defeated.

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Bill Winn, a retired carpenter, makes cat condos at his Payson home to supplement his fixed income. "It's pretty tough living on a Social Security check," he said. Winn and his condos were recently booted off the parking lot of the Best Western Inn of Payson by town officials.

"I filed a grievance for another meeting because it was a tie vote and there was one (commissioner) missing, so I felt as though I deserved another meeting," Winn said.

As far as Winn can tell, the only person who has a problem with his business is Nicholas Brotcke, owner of Pioneer Village Trading Post at 1117 N. Beeline Highway. The Best Western is located at 801 N. Beeline Highway.

The background packet provided to the commission by town staff for the meeting contained three letters of complaint from Brotcke; there were no complaints from anyone else. In the most recent, dated March 22, Brotcke acknowledged that he has complained to the town building department "verbally and by phone" for "at least one year," and claims he has been "villainized" by town officials in return.

"Outside display and sales of merchandise are illegal and inappropriate for that location," he wrote. "If Mr. Winn is granted his request, he will be the only such peddler in Payson's history and he will set a (precedent) for downgrading the community's future."

In an earlier letter dated Oct. 25, 2004, Brotcke accused the town of flagrantly violating its own ordinances, thereby setting a standard of "contempt, mistrust and disobedience for the entire community."

Winn, a retired carpenter, counters that neither he nor the town has done anything illegal.

"I was all legal to start with three years ago, but then the council decided I had the wrong peddler's license for the zoning I was selling in," he said. "I told them, ‘Let's go ahead and do what I have to do,' so they gave me a temporary permit, which the antique dealer didn't like."

At the meeting Monday, Ray Erlandsen, town zoning administrator, confirmed Winn's version of events.

"Mr. Winn had written permission from the property owner for the display and sales ...," Erlandsen told the commission in his report. "He also had applied for and received a peddlers' license from the town of Payson and was informed that was all he needed for his sales."

Now that the temporary permit has expired, Winn has been forced to move to a location outside the laundromat in Star Valley. As a result, business is way down, making it even tougher for him and his wife, a retired nurse, to make ends meet. Together they get about $1,100 per month from Social Security.

Erlandsen recommended that the commission grant Winn the conditional-use permit he needs to resume selling cat furniture in front of the Best Western."

But before the commission voted, Brotcke spoke.

"This town is really changing, and the main corridor of business is going to be between Wal-Mart and The Home Depot ...," he said. "You're talking about swap-meeters on that highway with that traffic count ... You let one guy do this and you're setting a precedent and there are going to be dozens and dozens more on a permanent basis ... You're going to let this guy do this?"

Winn said Brotcke's store isn't that far from being an eyesore.

"He has the nerve to call me a flea market -- more or less a bum," he said. "I felt like saying, ‘Go look at your own front yard.' What I have is not junk; it's all brand-new stuff; it's a brand-new trailer."

Winn also dismissed Brotcke's claim that he is an unfair competitor.

"I am not selling anything that man is selling," he said. "I have a sales tax license, and I am perfectly legal."

But what bothered him the most is that nobody else, including the town and the people who live and work around the Best Western, has complained. As part of the process of applying for a conditional use permit, Winn had to solicit input from and hold a public meeting for some 40 nearby residents.

"There were no returns," he said. "I went to the meeting and waited for an hour and a half and nobody showed up."

No date has yet been set for Winn's appeal; the next meeting of the planning and zoning commission is April 11.

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