2011-12-10 / News

Two Lawsuits Challenge Mackinac Island Peddling Ordinance

By Matt Mikus

Two lawsuits were filed against the City of Mackinac Island, one filed in 11th Circuit Court in Mackinac County, the other filed in Federal District Court for the Western District of Michigan. The suits involve an ordinance passed in September that prevents peddling goods on the city streets and sidewalks.

Loren Horn and his son, Ben Horn, allege that the city’s ordinance is targeted to prevent them from operating their business selling water and goods from a bicycle.

Both are military veterans. They contend that a Michigan law passed in 1921 allows Michigan veterans to receive a license to peddle goods throughout the state, and Ben Horn protested previous attempts by the city to stop his business practice. After he protested, he alleges the city crafted the ordinance to purposely exclude their business practice.

Ben Horn’s suit is filed in federal court and he has hired David Blanchard of Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker to represent him.

“The reason we’re at this point is that Mackinac Island’s government has, for some reason, felt threatened by Mr. Horn from day one,” Mr. Blanchard said. “First, they pretended that they had some ban on this, then when they found out they don’t have one, they adopt a prohibition in response.

“It’s unfortunate that it follows a pattern that Mackinac Island has displayed, believing that the law doesn’t apply to them, both state and federal. You can’t be a fiefdom unto yourself, even though you’re an island.”

Loren Horn has filed suit against the city in circuit court, and will be represented by William Justin.

Tom Evashevski, the city’s lawyer, said that the ordinance complies with the same standards passed by the Michigan Department of Transportation, preventing peddling on the state highways.

“This has nothing to do with veterans,” said Mr. Evashevski. “It has to do with what the city streets are used for.”

The city has a clear right and obligation to taxpayers, he said, to determine what happens in and on the streets and sidewalks. He adds that the law doesn’t grant veterans a special exemption, but helps veterans to peddle without having to pay licensing fees in communities that allow peddling.

The city previously had a nopeddling ordinance in 1970, but the ordinance was removed from the books when the city council hired an outside firm to codify, consolidate, and update the city ordinances.

The city also contends that the ordinance allows the city control over downtown congestion, business practices, and protects business owners who have to pay property taxes.

“The law is clear that they are not exempt from local regulations,” Mr. Evashevski said. “This ordinance doesn’t prevent them from peddling, it just prevents them from peddling on the streets.”

Mr. Evashevski will represent the city in circuit court, and the city will hire Mike Cavanaugh with Fraser Trebilock law firm of Lansing to represent it in the federal litigation.

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