Sunday, December 7, 2014

Open Letter to Mayor Hayward, Mr. Messer, City Attorney, and all City Council Members


 

Originally posted on Wednesday, January 2, 2013

TO:        Mayor Ashton J. Hayward, Mr. James M. Messer (City Attorney),
              Councilman P. C. Wu, Councilwoman Jewel Cannada-Wynn,
              Councilwoman Sherri F. Myers, Councilman Andy Terhaar,
              Councilman Gerald Wingate, Councilman Larry B. Johnson,
              Councilwoman Megan B. Pratt, Councilman Brian Spencer,
              and Councilman Charles Bare

FROM:  Mary Mead

Subj:      Legal Use of our Property Downtown

The following narrative describes our experiences with owning a business in downtown, Pensacola.

 In June, 1998, my husband and I, both veterans, purchased the property at 520 N. Spring Street which was being used as an art gallery/antique shop holding functions since 1980. 

In May 2000, we were authorized, by City Officials, to reopen after restoring the historic property and winning the best restored historic house of the year award.

In January, 2001, officials of the City of Pensacola, Escambia County and the State of Florida authorized us to receive the Historic Preservation Tax Exemption (located at ci.pensacola.fl.us – City Council Meeting, dated 1/11/2001, page 10, on line).  The Pensacola City Council Memorandum dated January 8, 2001, page 2, paragraph 3 states, “The Meads propose to use the structure for an art gallery, antiques, crafts and functions.”  (This memo is located at ci.pensacola.fl.us – council file dated 1/11/2001, in the Pensacola City records section on line).  

From May, 2000, until March 19, 2005, we operated peacefully. 

A Pensacola Police Officer illegally closed us down at 7:00 PM, on March 19, 2005, during a wedding.  He stated that we weren’t authorized to have functions and because we held functions, we were completely closed down. This illegal closing was done without prior notice and without due process in violation of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.  This was the day before City Officials announced, in the Pensacola News Journal, that they were building a 40 million dollar Community Maritime Park at the end of our street. 

On Sunday, March 20, 2005, I called the Pensacola Police Department desk sergeant and told him we were officially authorized to have functions (see above).  He said that if we had functions, a policeman would be dispatched and we would be charged with committing a crime. 

On Monday, March 21, 2005, I called the City Manager, Mr. Bonfield, and the Director of Community Development, Mr. Cowper, reminding them that we were officially authorized to hold functions.  Both said that we were completely closed down and that was that. 

In September, 2005, in answer to my many emails and documentation, including the approval of functions by the Pensacola City Council in 2001, Mr. Cowper sent an email, where he finally admitted that we are grandfathered as an art gallery/antique shop but he still, illegally, refused to allow us to hold functions. “Based upon information and evidence presented by you along with city records that I have reviewed I am convinced that the use of the property for an antique store /art gallery is indeed grandfathered.”   We cannot succeed in our business without holding functions as we are legally authorized to do.  No artist will sign with our art gallery if we can’t have gallery nights, etc. and small functions added significantly to our income.  Many people wanted a place to have a small function, our contracts specify less than 100 attendees, in a beautiful setting where hard liquor was forbidden and noise was to be abated at 11:00 PM, all at a reasonable price.  My husband and I refused to reopen with this illegal restriction which would lead to failure in our business.  We insisted on being allowed to operate as we were officially and legally authorized.  Opening and closing a business is very expensive and it appears they can close us, without a legal reason, at will.  They refused to lift the illegal prohibition.

On April 25, 2008, Mr. Thaddeus Cohen, the new Director, Department of Community Development, sent an email stating that the new reason we were closed down on March 19, 2005, (three years earlier) is that we did not have enough off-street parking for functions. 

On April 28, 2008, I stated to Mr. Cohen, “The number of off-street parking spaces provided for buildings constructed prior to October 13, 1994, shall be deemed in compliance with the requirements of this code, for as long as the same land use is maintained within the same building footprint.” (quoted from City Ordinance).  In addition, we exceed off-street requirements by quite a lot as we have our own parking lot (14 spaces are required and we have 20+).   Mr. Cohen refused to answer this email and refused to honor our rights to operate our business as authorized.  All other City Officials (City Manager, City Council Members, etc.) also refused to stop the apparent illegal/criminal actions against us and lift the illegal prohibition. 

I reported these apparent illegal/criminal actions on the part of Pensacola City Officials against us to FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement).  The Pensacola City Attorney’s email to the FDLE General Counsel, dated September 9, 2010, is filled with false charges and false statements against us apparently to cover-up apparent corruption on the part of local officials.  The FDLE General Counsel quoted these false charges and false statements to me as an official reason for him not to investigate.  Then I reported these apparent illegal/criminal actions on the part of Pensacola City Officials against us to the FBI.   The Assistant Director, FBI Criminal Investigative Division, quoted these false charges and false statements to Senator Bill Nelson (D, Fl), who sent a copy to me, as an official reason for the FBI not to investigate.

I understand that making false reports, false statements, and false accusations to the FDLE and the FBI are serious offenses.

The following excerpts from the Pensacola City Attorney’s email, the FDLE General Counsel’s letter, and the Assistant Director, FBI Criminal Investigative Division’s, letter to Senator Bill Nelson (D, FL), who sent a copy to me, follow so everyone should be able to clearly see the level of lies told to and about us.

The Pensacola City Attorney stated to the FDLE General Counsel, “Numerous complaints were received from her neighbors and the city did direct her to cease holding outdoor events such as weddings.”

The FDLE General Counsel stated to me, “after neighbors’ complaints, the City notified you that your zoning did not allow such outside activities.”

The Assistant Director, FBI Criminal Investigative Division stated to Senator Bill Nelson, who sent a copy to me, “Ms. Mead alleged that her art business was improperly denied the ability to conduct outside functions by the city of Pensacola. 

The Assistant Director, FBI Criminal Investigative Division and the FDLE General Counsel made false statements and false accusations based on the false statements and false accusations of the Pensacola City Attorney.  Through a Public Information request, I was able to obtain the following email from the Pensacola Chief of Police, Mr. Chip Simmons, to the Pensacola Mayor’s assistant, Mr. Al Coby.  I have repeatedly stated that during the 25 years of operation of the business, from 1980 until 2005, in the same location, there were no complaints before our illegal closing on March 19, 2005 and I believe this email proves that we had no complaints in 2004 or 2005 on which to base the illegal closing. 

From: Chip Simmons
Sent: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 11:17 AM
To: Al Coby
Cc: Thaddeus Cohen; Rita R. Lee
Subject: RE:
Thanks Al. I checked and we have no paperwork on the location or information regarding the complaint. We do have a total of nine alarm responses dating back to 2004.

The Pensacola City Attorney stated to the FDLE General Counsel, “the city did direct her to cease holding outdoor events such as weddings."  This is not true.  All functions were illegally banned from the date of the illegal closing, March 19, 2005, by the Pensacola City Officials, to include gallery nights, meet the artist nights, children's tea parties, poetry readings, weddings, reunions, etc.  My favorite weddings were the small, intimate candlelight ceremonies I held for servicemen and women from the local Navy base.  I furnished candles and flowers, free of charge, and performed the ceremony myself as I am a notary public.

The Pensacola City Attorney stated to the FDLE General Counsel, “In 2005, she allowed weddings and receptions to take place on her property,
The FDLE General Counsel stated to the Assistant Director, FBI Criminal Investigative Division
and to me, “It is also my understanding that after you began using your property for outside weddings in 2005,
The Assistant Director, FBI Criminal Investigative Division stated to Senator Bill Nelson with a copy to me, “Ms. Mead alleged that her art business was improperly denied the ability to conduct outside functions by the city of Pensacola. 

All of these statements are clearly false as our property had been used for functions since 1980, for 25 years before the illegal closing, and this fact is recorded in Pensacola City records.  City Officials prohibited all functions by the illegal closing, not just outside functions. 

Our functions (which were authorized by Pensacola City Ordinance 9-01(passed in January, 2001)) only became a problem when the Community Maritime Park was to be built at the end of our street, announced on March 20, 2005, the day after we were illegally closed.  All of a sudden, our important property became a problem and, it appears, had to be taken away from us. 

The Pensacola City Attorney stated to the FDLE General Counsel, “Ms. Mead’s building was conditionally permitted as an art gallery and an antique shop with no outside displays permitted when she purchased it and it still is today.” 
The FDLE General Counsel stated to the Assistant Director, FBI Criminal Investigative Division,I have also learned that you were initially permitted as an art gallery and antique shop that includes a restriction of no outside displays.
 The Assistant Director, FBI Criminal Investigative Division stated to Senator Bill Nelson with a copy to me, “Ms. Mead alleged that her art business was improperly denied the ability to conduct outside functions by the city of Pensacola. 

Outside displays refers to outside displays of furniture, pictures, etc.  Even though we don’t have a Conditional Use, we do not have outside displays as that would be tacky.

Proof that we do not have nor have ever had a Conditional Use, is that on Aug 15, 2005, Mr. Cowper, Director of the Pensacola Community Development Department, sent an email stating, “we have no record that a conditional use permit was ever approved by the planning board and city council for an art gallery.” And, “While I do not wish to see you sell your property I’m sure that you can understand that I must enforce the applicable zoning regulations.  I encourage you to review the applicable zoning regulations and to restrict the use of your property to those allowed.”  The lack of a Conditional Use was initially used as the reason for the illegal closing of our authorized business in 2005.

The Pensacola City Attorney and the FDLE General Counsel said, in 2010, that our initial closing, in 2005, (5 years earlier) was due to us violating a Conditional Use.  We don’t have a Conditional Use so we can’t possibly violate it. 

City Officials keep our authorized business illegally closed down by: Pensacola City Officials give a reason for our closing, no Conditional Use, and I counter with the reason we are legal, we are grandfathered. Then Pensacola City Officials think of a new reason for our closing, no parking, and I counter with the reason we are legal, our parking is grandfathered to 1994 and, in addition, we exceed current requirements.  The current reason for our closing is that we are violating our Conditional Use and I have countered with the reason we are legal - we don’t have a Conditional Use.

I have repeatedly reported these apparent illegal/criminal actions against us to all City Officials (Mayors, City Attorneys and all City Council Members) and all have refused to stop the apparent illegal/criminal actions against us, refused to bring charges against those breaking the law and causing us great harm and most have refused to answer my correspondence when I keep requesting that they lift the illegal prohibition against us having functions.  The representatives for my District, District 6, have:
       Councilwoman Cannada-Wynn supported the illegal closing
       Councilman Spencer refused to meet with me and is refusing to answer my communications 

In addition, I have repeatedly asked Pensacola City Officials, currently Mayor Hayward and Mr. Messer, to correct the records on file in FDLE, FBI files, and in Senator Nelson’s office to reflect the true facts.  They have refused.  The official FDLE, FBI and Senator Nelson’s records still contain false charges and false statements about me, wrongly defaming me and accusing me of wrong deeds, generated by the City of Pensacola official representative.

Many other false statements were made by the Pensacola City Attorney to the investigating officials that I can easily furnish if requested.

During this time, almost 8 years, my husband of 39 years passed away (cancer) without us being able to reopen our business even though he hoped to recover and hoped we would be able to reopen. Our granddaughter is a gifted artist and has been accepted by the Savannah College of Art Design (SCAD) but I cannot help her save for the expensive tuition by displaying her works for sale since we are illegally closed.  Since I am not earning income from my business, I cannot afford to contribute to her tuition and can barely manage on just my retirement pension.  I paid the yearly property tax of $5,780.94 but I am refused the operation of my business as legally authorized and am refused the law enforcement services of two of the agencies this pays for:  the Pensacola Police Department and the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.

We invested our life savings and our income from this property for years to restore this beautiful historic building and operate our business but apparent corruption on the part of public officials illegally took the use of our property, as officially authorized, and, therefore, our income, away.  It appears they committed and continue to commit extortion, conspiracy, and grand theft of persons 65 years of age or older.  We are currently being deprived of the right to use our property and benefit from the use of that property which violates the United States Constitution

I am requesting that you stop the apparent crimes against me and lift the illegal prohibition so I am able to earn income, again, from our properly authorized business, and I am requesting that those who are breaking the law are brought to justice. 

                               

                                                                           

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