Eye On Boise

Lawmaker sells house, fights to live in business

The Idaho Statesman's Dan Popkey reports today that House Transportation Chairman Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, is embroiled in a fight with the city after he and his wife sold their home and took up residence in a converted office area at the back of their consignment store, a city zoning violation. Palmer says the city is after him, and said of Meridian Mayor Mayor Tammy de Weerd, “She despises the ground I walk on.” You can click below for the AP version of Popkey's report; you can read his original report here, but beware if you're somewhere where you don't want your computer to suddenly start playing a loud video: the Statesman website may first make you listen to a noisy video advertisement.

Lawmaker sells house, fights to live in business

MERIDIAN, Idaho (AP) — Republican state Rep. Joe Palmer says he sold his home in 2010 to save money, but now he's fighting with the city of Meridian over whether he and his wife can sleep in the back of their consignment furniture business.

Palmer is appealing a ruling by the planning department that he's violating Meridian's zoning laws by living in Cherry's Consignment, the Idaho Statesman reported (http://bit.ly/JI2743). Meridian's zoning laws bar residences in the "community business" zone that includes Palmer's store.

Palmer says he feels like he's being picked on by government.

Palmer, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, blames Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd, contending she doesn't like him on grounds that he opposes allowing cities such as Meridian to build debt-financed road projects. He said de Weerd supports his opponent, Richard Dees, in the May 15 primary election.

"She despises the ground I walk on," Palmer said, speculating that the zoning enforcement is aimed at embarrassing him and helping Dees win. "I'm a small-business guy trying to get by, and I feel like the government's just running over me."

De Weerd says Palmer's allegations are baseless.

She said Meridian's code enforcement simply followed through on a violation report that Palmer himself provided: He mentioned to city officials where he was living during a meeting last August over a $15 million road project that he objects to because he believes it could hurt his business.

"Contrary to what's being suggested here, I didn't drive the timeline," de Weerd said.

De Weerd staffers said it took three months from the time they learned about where Palmer was living before the city finally contacted him about the violation in November 2011.

"We couldn't ignore it," City Attorney Bill Nary said.

The break room at Cherry's has a full bathroom and a kitchen. Two offices were converted to bedrooms. His 20-year-old son sometimes showers and sleeps there.

But Palmer's housing woes mark just the latest turn in his family's difficulties.

His son, Cord Palmer, remains in the Ada County Jail after his January arrest on drug dealing and probation violation charges after police said they found 132 grams of psilocybin mushrooms, marijuana and a scale during a search of a car. Cord Palmer, who has pleaded not guilty, previously was convicted of drug-paraphernalia possession and burglary.

Joe Palmer said he's deeply concerned that government is making life hard for small-business owners.

Should he lose his appeal to continue sleeping at Cherry's, Joe Palmer said, he may ask his family for help. But that could mean leaving District 20 and the Legislature. He is determined to save the business he has run for a decade.

"If I have to stand out there waving a pizza sign — whatever it takes to get people in there — I might be able to survive," he said.


Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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Betsy Z. Russell





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