Score one for the Rim country's cats.
When Bill Winn began selling his handcrafted cat condos in front of the Best Western Inn of Payson on Highway 87 three years ago, the retired carpenter thought he had found the perfect way to supplement his Social Security.
But after doing everything the town asked him to do to be "legal," and despite a recommendation from the Community Development staff that he be allowed to continue, the Planning and Zoning Commission denied him a conditional use permit in March. Winn was forced to peddle his cat condos in front of the laundromat in Star Valley, and sales plummeted.
Last night the Payson Town Council voted unanimously to grant a conditional use permit that will allow Winn to resume selling his cat condos in front of the Best Western Inn.
But the motion only allows Winn to operate through Nov. 15, and directs planning and zoning to determine by March 15 if the permit should be renewed.
Councilor George Barriger stated the case for Winn.
"I don't really see any problem with it as long as those things are controlled, and that's why we have conditional use to permits," he said. "I hate to put anybody out of business.
"There was no harm done, and no harm, no foul as far as I'm concerned. He was doing a good job there -- keeping things nice and neat."
Vice Mayor Judy Buettner agreed.
"My own feeling is that he has complied with everything we've asked of him, and the owners of that property have gone to bat for him," she said.
Buettner was referring to the fact that the Best Western Payson Inn granted Winn permission to peddle his condos, and sent a letter to that effect to the town. According to Barriger, that was a telling fact.
"I don't think the Inn of Payson would want him there if he was a hindrance to their business," the councilor said.
Councilor Dick Reese, who made the motion, and Councilor John Wilson also spoke strongly in favor of allowing Winn to continue. Councilors Robert Henley and Tim Fruth, however, wanted a more restrictive motion.
Judging from letters received by the Roundup and an informal survey conducted by Reese, Winn's plight drew considerable sympathy from a community comprised of a large percentage of retirees. In fact, only one person -- Nicholas Brotcke -- formally objected.
In three letters to the town, Brotcke, who owns Pioneer Village Trading Post at 1117 N. Beeline Highway (the Payson Inn is located at 801 N. Beeline Highway), argued that granting Winn a permit would be a dangerous precedent.
"If you allow these ... businesses to continue then they will only multiply into dozens of undesired swap meeters to disgrace and shame our beautiful community," Brotcke wrote in a letter dated Oct. 25, 2004.
But Buettner argued that proliferation was not a problem since each application would be considered separately and on its own merits.
In recommending approval of the request, Community Development officials acknowledged the perception of unfair competition because "the roadside vendor does not have construction costs, utility costs, property taxes and other associated business overhead costs.
"On the other hand," the officials noted in their report to the commission, "staff has determined that a handcrafted goods use does not fall neatly into any existing use category. The merchandise would be unique and not in direct competition with manufactured retail merchandise. The local artists and craftsmen support the community with their housing costs, purchasing manufactured merchandise, and paying county and local sales taxes."
Winn told the Roundup he would have preferred a five-year permit, but was grateful for the council decision.