When a planning commission starts plotting ...

By The West Virginia Record | Jan 6, 2012

There's a group called the Institute for Justice (IJ) that specializes in defending the rights of entrepreneurs against arbitrary and capricious state and local lawmakers.

Their clients are ordinary people trying to make a living the best way they know how, only to see their versions of the American Dream obstructed or destroyed by licensing laws or permit requirements whose main objective seems to be to protect a privileged class of more-established businesses from the rigors of competition.

It's too bad Leah Taylor didn't know about IJ when she purchased an uninhabited building on North Samuel Street in Ranson in 2007 with the dream of turning it into an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and confectionary.

Her dream soon became a nightmare, thanks to the machinations of municipal authorities.

Having confirmed that the property was zoned for commercial use, Taylor purchased the building and renovated it.

Early the following year, as she was preparing for her grand opening, the city informed her that her permit had been revoked -– allegedly to protect existing businesses from the threat of competition from her new venture.

When Taylor hired an attorney to challenge the revocation, the city began to backpedal, while still throwing obstacles in her path.

Taylor finally got her business up and running, but later closed it and rented out her space to a daycare center, at which time the city told her tenant that the property was not zoned for commercial use and demanded a $750 fee.

When the tenant moved out, city officials condemned the property as uninhabitable, leaving Taylor unable to recoup her investment.

This past November, Taylor filed suit against the City of Ranson and its planning commission in Jefferson Circuit Court.

We hope she gets the compensatory damages she deserves –- and that state and federal authorities will investigate the city officials who may have abused their authority.

When a planning commission starts plotting against the citizens it's supposed to serve, it's time for heads to roll if the accusations prove true.

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