Victory

End Zoning Office Harassment of Small Business in Hoboken

This petition made change with 221 supporters!


I opened Shear Madness - A Salon for Men & Women, in 2003, in Hoboken, NJ. Over the next 8 years I grew my business despite the many challenges one faces as a small business owner. In April 2011, in an effort to increase visibility in a building that denies its commercial residents adequate signage, I purchased and displayed a Feather Flag Sign. I was advised by the zoning office at the time that this was a permissible sign type and required no permit. It had the desired effect of increasing visibility and business.

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy destroyed all that I had built. It was late March 2013 before we could reopen, having received no insurance monies whatsoever. My flag sign returned where it had been since 2011. While Mayor Zimmer was touting her desire to help recovery, Zoning Officer Ann Holtzman began sending warnings about my "illegal" sign. She even visited personally with a big dog in tow to demand I remove the sign.

Despite numerous attempts to reason with Mrs. Holtzman, multiple visits to the Mayor, conversations with city council members, and now three trips to court, we remain at an impasse - 3 1/2 years later. First I was challenged to prove that my sign predated the 2012 ordinance change which banned feather flag signs, so I could be considered grandfathered; I did that. Nobody bothered me for 18 months.

In February 2016, Ann Holtzman noticed an employee of the business with a warning and summons. My complaint to the Mayor saw that summons withdrawn and I was told I would hear from her office shortly regarding the broader nature of the sign. Instead, Ann Holtzman reissued the summons to me and added an additional summons in retaliation for seeking help from city hall.

When the Mayor's office did finally get back to me, it was to tell me that I couldn't be considered grandfathered because I didn't have a permit when I placed the sign in 2011; despite the fact that no permit was required or available for this particular sign type. In court, Ann Holtzman said that the sign type was never legal and therefore I couldn't be grandfathered. On another occasion in court she threatened to impose the maximum penalty should I chose to take this to trial instead of bowing to her demand.

At our July 27, 2016 court conference I found out exactly what her threat entailed:

1. Plead guilty and agree to remove my sign and pay a $2,000 fine

Or

2. Plead Not Guilty and face maximum fines exceeding $80,000 should I be found guilty.

No business should have to "fight city hall" especially when the law is clear. No business should have to choose between being bankrupted by exorbitant fines or defending its rights. It is obvious that the city just doesn't want my sign there. In their efforts to bully me into submission they have challenged me to prove that the sign predated the ordinance change, then changed their tune multiple times to claim that sign type was either never legal or required a permit. Their inconsistencies and shifting rules are contrary to their purported claims to "value small business." After all, how can one be expected to follow the rules when the rules keep changing and history keeps being rewritten?

Ask Mayor Zimmer, Zoning Officer Ann Holtzman and the Hoboken City Council to end this harassment of small business and focus on the issues that matter to the Citizenry of Hoboken.



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