Woman says Ranson, planning commission caused business problems

CHARLES TOWN -- A woman is suing the City of Ranson and Ranson Planning Commission for problems concerning a business she opened in the city. In 2007, Leah C. Taylor located an uninhabited building at 410 N. Samuel Street in Ranson, which she thought could be converted into an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and confections store, according to a complaint filed Nov. 4 in Jefferson Circuit Court. Taylor claims she contacted the city to ask if the building was zoned for commercial use and was assured that it was. In reliance on the city's assurance that the building was zoned for commercial use, Taylor purchased the structure in 2007 and invested money and effort in its renovation, according to the suit. Taylor claims the building had a detached garage, which was dilapidated and could not be used for its intended purpose, so she asked the city what could be put in place of the garage and was told by a representative that she could place a drive-up coffee trailer there. When Taylor located a coffee trailer, she purchased it for $28,000, using a line of credit, according to the suit, and then completed the necessary paperwork. Taylor claims in early 2008, she was contacted by the city and informed that her permit had been revoked as the city had changed its mind and she would not be permitted to open her drive-up coffee shop. Later, Taylor learned that the city's decision was precipitated by opposition to Taylor's proposed coffee shop by businesses who did not welcome the competition that Taylor would bring, according to the suit. Taylor claims after she obtained counsel to address the revocation of her permit, the city agreed that because it had issued a permit after she had purchased her coffee trailer, either the city would buy the trailer or it would permit her to operate it. After more time passed, the Ranson City Council approved Taylor's permit as long as she installed concrete piers for the trailer, rather than just tie-downs, according to the suit, but Taylor's original plans, which had been approved by the City along with her permit, we rejected and Taylor had to submit three more sets of plans before the City finally approved them. Taylor claims she was unable to open for business until June 21, 2008 because the defendants kept finding reasons for her business not to open. Although the business initially did well, the economic recession caused a downtown and Taylor eventually sold the coffee trailer, and closed her business in November 2008, according to the suit. Taylor claims in August 2009, she was approached by Michelle Black, who wanted to rent the building and operate a day-care center. Black operated the day-care center for several months, until January 2010, when the city attempted to charge her a fee of $750 because "the city claimed that the location was not zoned for commercial use," according to the suit. Taylor claims as a result of the defendant's actions, Black moved out, still owing her $2,600. In February 2010, the defendants condemned Taylor's property as uninhabitable, which left Taylor unable to sell the property or rent it as a commercial property, or to recoup her considerable investment in the property, according to the suit. Taylor compensatory damages. She is being represented by Jeffrey V. Mehalic. Jefferson Circuit Court case number: 11-C-419

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