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Family ethical dilemma

Zoning Goddess

Cyburbian
Messages
13,853
Points
39
You are a total zoning geek, you know the code inside and out. You discover your nephew is working at a business illegally located in an upscale residential neighborhood, and it's only a matter of time until the neighbors figure it out. What do you do?? I told my brother, don't tell me the actual street address, or I won't be able to help myself. Is anyone else as obsessive/compulsive about zoning codes??
 

Michele Zone

BANNED
Messages
7,657
Points
29
Well, in what way is it illegal? Is he just unlicensed? Is it something he cannot do from that neighborhood at all, legally? Or what?

If it is a matter of needing a license, I think I would say "Hey, you know it is my job to uphold this stuff. I can hardly ethically or legally look the other way. Get Legal and do it real soon."

A lot of businesses start sort of casually and then grow and it gets kind of fuzzy at what point it quit legally not really being a 'business' and started needing all the licenses and whatever. It is not illegal to make a few extra bucks on the side doing whatever, as long as it doesn't violate any codes about 'manufacturing', dangerous substances, etc.

Is it possible to take the position of 'Gosh, I know you kind of fell into this and it wasn't clear to you that you had to do X, but I deal with these rules for a living and the rules are: a, b, c. So, now that you know, you have no defense if you choose to continue it in this manner and don't come whining to me." etc.

I was a member of a college math honor society when I was 16 and in 11th grade. As a member, I tutored twice a week at the school. I lived up the street from a cousin of mine who was in Algebra. She got a D or an F the first six weeks and her excuse was 'the teacher can't teach'. I told her she had no excuse. She could have come to me at any time and gotten it explained to her. She obviously wasn't interested in making any effort. We were never very close again.... giggle. Oh well.
 

jordanb

Cyburbian
Messages
3,232
Points
25
Zoning Goddess said:
You are a total zoning geek, you know the code inside and out. You discover your nephew is working at a business illegally located in an upscale residential neighborhood, and it's only a matter of time until the neighbors figure it out. What do you do?? I told my brother, don't tell me the actual street address, or I won't be able to help myself. Is anyone else as obsessive/compulsive about zoning codes??
Family is more important than zoning laws. :p If it comes to you via official channels (neighbors filing a complaint), it's your duty to enforce the rules, but if it's family talk, then it's off the record, so keep it there. He'll be understandibly angry at you for going after him on your own initiative.

That's assuming he's not doing anything dangerous, of course. If you think people are in danger then it's probably more complicated.
 

donk

Cyburbian
Messages
6,970
Points
30
Is anyone else as obsessive/compulsive about zoning codes??
Is it your cousin's business, or is he just working there?

If it is his business, I'd tell him that you won't be able to help him when push comes to shove and that he is doing a thing that puts you in a difficult position.

If he just works there I'd care a bit less, especially if you are not receiving complaints.

While family is important, it is also important to not look or act like you are favouring them.
 

Jeff

Cyburbian
Messages
4,161
Points
27
Forget about it until someone approaches you in a more "official" capacity....and then call him before you stop over so he can hide the evidence.
 

tsc

Cyburbian
Messages
1,905
Points
23
I would agree.. that until it is brought to you in an official capacity...to leave it alone. Unless it is jeopardizing the health and safety of others.. or if people know you know about it and are doing nothing about it. Especially since as you say.. that the neighbors will know about it soon enough and report it.

When I worked as the Zoning Administrator... I almost hated to drive down the street.. because of the illegal signs and businesses constantly popping up.
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
19,474
Points
44
I would let him know some night over a beer. Then I would try to help him to find a location that would work better for him, as well as would be in a legal zone. (if it was his business or his career was there)

If it was something that could go easily for a use variance, such as a coffee shop, or an accountant, then I would try to get them to go for a variance.

If he was just working there for a simple job that has no future for him, I would let him know that he might want to start looking for a new job as soon as the neighbors start to complain.

There is always a way that everyone can be happy. BUT Family comes first. *Unless it is a relative I don’t like, then I would look for a good visible location for the stop work notice.
 

Nero

Member
Messages
246
Points
10
Above all else remain ethical. In our town it was "who you know" so some people got zoning violations and the fines that went along with them and some people did not........... because that person "knew" someone in city hall. It created a lot of distrust in city hall. I have a blind eye when it comes to violations.... after all a zoning violation is not the end of the world. But all of your citizens should be treated equally. Use you best judgement. Good Luck!
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
Tell him "unofficially" that he can't do it and warn him of the implications if he is caught. Let him know that almost everyone is eventually caught, and that you won't be able to help him then. In other words, what everyone else said.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
34
I agree that he should have "unofficial" notice too.

Does your department have a written compliance / enforcement procedure? For us, we dont initiate complaince actions unless we get written requests / complaints from 2 residents (must be signed and include address), or one dept. head or elected official. It works well, and adoids getting us in the middle of most neighbor vs. neighbor pissing contests.
 

SCCOTS

Member
Messages
11
Points
1
Get something out of it...........

Have him buy you lunch at least before you shut him down!
 

tsc

Cyburbian
Messages
1,905
Points
23
Goddess of Zoning...boy... I think you are going to have to have a vote.... the answers are all over the board. You could also tell your cousin it was called in. Where I worked, NY,,, the tips were allowed to be kept confidential.

I used to scoff at regional planners...now I am glad I am one of them... just for this reason.
 

SW MI Planner

Cyburbian
Messages
3,195
Points
26
I agree with ts corbitt - call him/her up and say that you received a few complaints. Yah, it's family, but rules are rules and if you just ignore it, your not doing your job.
 

SkeLeton

Cyburbian
Messages
4,853
Points
26
Just treat the case as if it was just a normal case, no special treatment, no below the table warnings or anything...You can't go too hard on him either...relax and take it easy as if it was anybody else.
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,464
Points
29
Depends. If its a guy running a mobile auto repair service who stores tires piled 15 feet high in his side yard, (an actual case), I don't care if its your cousin. Hazardous is hazardous.

Otherwise, wait until the complaints "officially" arise.
 
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