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Bike shop and neighbors at odds By Charles M. Kelly | Fri, Jul 23 2010 01:46 PM

Three Old Town residents told the Seal Beach City Council Monday, July 12, that the city had not acted on their complaints about Main Street Cyclery over the last two years.  The bike shop has been in business for 13 years.

The owner of the bike shop told the Sun Newspapers that the complaints were not valid. He was not at the council meeting Monday night.

Director of Development Services Mark Persico confirmed that even if the city takes action in a code complaint, the person making the complaint may never know about it.

District 1 Councilman Charles Antos urged staff to enforce the code. He suggested staff either cite the bike shop or hold a public hearing to revoke the shop’s business license.

When told about Antos’ remarks, shop owner Dave Dunton expressed surprise that Antos would take an anti-business position.

In a Monday, July 19 interview, Dunton told the Sun that none of the complaints about his shop were factual. He said the complaints were all generated by one man, John Ramsey.

Ramsey was the third resident to complain to the council about what he called noise from the bike shop.

When told other neighbors complained to the council, Dunton speculated that Ramsey put them up to it.

The issue came up during “oral communications,” the public comment segment of the council meeting. Property owner Leo Boelter said he had one tenant move out because of noise from the bike shop. He said another tenant moved out after five months. Boelter said the second tenant didn’t say why they chose to move, but Boelter speculated the issue was noise from the Main Street Cyclery bike shop. He did not identify the shop by name, but rather by its address. (There is only one bike shop on Main Street.)

Boelter said he had tenants who would move if noise from the bike shop continued. He asked City Manager David Carmany to require the bike shop to close its rear door.

The bike shop’s rear door faces an alley. The front door faces Main Street.

James P. Darling, another property owner, said the dispute had been going on for close to two years.

Darling said the noise from the bike shop was “oppressive.”

“This is an incompatible use the ay this is being used,” Darling said.

Darling said he had received a letter from Dunton threatening a lawsuit against him and other neighbors who have complained about the bike shop. Darling provided a copy of the letter to the City Clerk.

The City Clerk’s Office provided the Sun with a copy of the Dunton letter. The Sept. 17, 2008 letter said: “None of you have had the presence of mind or basic courtesy to contact me directly; rather, you have resorted to using the Seal Beach Police department and the Planning staff in an attempt to force us into submission with your concept of how a bike shop should conduct our operation.”

Later in the same paragraph, the letter said: “The next instance wherein one of you calls in a false report of noise (like you did on Sunday, September 7, 2008) will result in my filing suit against each and every one of you that signed that first letter.”

“For those of you unfamiliar with contract and/or civil law—the instant you signed that original complaint letter, which as completely fabricated, you committed an act of libel,” Dunton wrote.

Ramsey told the City Council that someone at the bike shop had called the police to falsely accuse him of threatening one of the kids who were working on bikes in the alley behind the shop. Ramsey said he was detained by police for 30 minutes as result. He did not say when the incident had occurred.

Darling, to whom the Dunton letter was addressed, said he and the others were appealing to the council for help because they weren’t getting anywhere with staff.

“With no offense to the city manager, we haven’t been getting any performance,” Darling said.

Ramsey was the third man to speak about the bike shop.

“I don’t feel that we should have to prove that a business is a nuisance,” Ramsey said.

“It is incumbent upon the business to be a good neighbor,” he said.

Ramsey complained about noise from air compressors, barking dogs—Dunton’s two dogs spend much of their time in the bike shop—kids working in the alley, blocking traffic.

Ramsey said the code requires business activity to take place within an enclosed space.

When it was his turn to speak, Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce President Seth Eaker made a vague reference to the controversy by saying code enforcement was a hot button topic. Eaker did not mention to the council that he works for the bike shop.

During Council Comments, the part of a council meeting when council members address the public on their concerns, Antos passed out copies of a section of the Zoning Ordinance to his fellow council members. The section he passed out was related to the Main Street Specific Plan.

Antos said the code did not allow business activities outdoors. He said there was no exception for bike shops.

He said the city could be sued if a landlord can’t keep tenants because of noise from a business.

Antos recommended the business either be cited or for staff to held a hearing to revoke the shop’s business license.

“I cannot believe that Councilman Antos would take such an anti-business position,” Dunton said.

He said he was appalled that Antos was taking Ramsey’s side.

Dunton said he had attempted to get a restraining order against Ramsey, but his attorney determined that they “couldn’t make it stick.”

“I can’t believe this guy is out to get us. We’ve been here for 13 years,” Dunton said.

In a telephone interview Monday, July 19, Development Services Director Persico said staff was monitoring the situation. Persico said code enforcement actions were not public record. The identities of people who file complaints are kept confidential.

He also confirmed that if a complaint resulted in an enforcement action, the person who complained might never know something had been done.

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