City Airbnb ban ‘based on whim,’ Crápo tells court

Mary Alice Crápo talks on the David Tulis show 1 p.m. weekdays at 92.7 FM NoogaRadio to encourage Chattanooga residents oppressed by an Internet ban imposed on half the population by city council and Mayor Andy Berke, a Democrat. True to the spirit of the idea of a “Gig City,” she is spiting the prohibition and operating her Airbnb house as her sole means of putting bread on her table. (Photo David Tulis)

Mary Alice Crápo, in seeking an injunction against further citations, tells Hamilton County circuit court judge Kyle Hedrick that she “is about 100 percent” sure she will prevail. Why? Because the city’s ban on the use of the Internet to have Airbnb business in one’s home is unconstitutional on its face. By making this summary of her primary claims, she hopes to obtain relief from further action by Mayor Andy Berke until her trial March 3.

Here Mrs. Crapo, 65, says the city council’s ordinance is wrong “from its thickest root to its smallest limbs” because personal opinion is the sole basis of the distinction between like parties made illegally in the law. In other words, “There is no reasonableness with this ordinance except if you call the whims and opinions of [council member Chip] Henderson reasonable,” she says.

By Mary Alice Crápo

 The accused, Mary Alice Crápo, acting in persona propria and in her status as a private natural person and human being, moves the honorable court:

— To halt new citations for the same purported violation from the City of Chattanooga zoning office; this will prevent multiple trials in the circuit court for the same violation.

— To join several like cases by City of Chattanooga into the same action. The cases requested to be consolidated are city court docket Nos. 16246, 16345 and  No. 19C1169 as well as a fourth case for which a city court docket number will be generated in December.  

The accused had unfair trials because the judges refuse to rule on the law.  In the most recent city court case, No 16345, stand-in judge Kevin Lewis declared Mary Alice Crapo guilty of operating without city’s certificate yet the city refused to accept an application from the accused because her residence was not arbitrarily “chosen” to be part of the overlay map or discrimination was used to eleminate the accused residence.  

The judge refused to consider a motion for summary judgment and legal arguments, stating he would not rule on the law but facts alone and that city court is not a venue in which to make legal arguments. Mary Alice Crapo disagrees with the ruling because the accused alleges overlay map is illegal and judges must rule according to the law to get a fair trial.

Likelihood of accused prevailing is about 100%

Accused now avers the likelihood of prevailing in defense of her liberties and obtaining relief from enforcement action by the city.  This has also caused a great deal of pain and suffering, plus the financial loss from not being able to work a second job and having to study law and learning how to proceed with this court battle takes up all her time.  

See attachment, that is the overlay map over a part of the City of Chattanooga scribbled by the whims and opinions of the councilmen. A quick glance doesn’t even look like a map but chaos.  The overlay map is not based on law; it is arbitrary and capricious. Class legislation whose classification is natural and reasonable is constitutional and valid, but class legislation whose classification is arbitrary and capricious is unconstitutional and invalid. Const. Art. 1, sec, 8; art. 11, sec. 8.

Local governments are authorized, by Tennessee Code Ann. § 13-7-201, to enact zoning ordinances “for the purpose of promoting the public health, safety, morals, convenience, order, prosperity and general welfare.” What this ordinance did is to stop Chattanooga residences of earning millions of dollars and hurt the prosperity for thousands; the opposite of what an ordinance’s purpose is supposed to do.

The ordinance makes distinctions among parties that are legally alike. The ordinance is unreasonable and a substantial detriment to the public good.

Petitioner argues the city has no authority over her in equity, that the city has shown no injury to itself and can show no injury in her exercising her rights to use her private property for private purposes, and that its overlay map is unconstitutional from its thickest root to its smallest limbs. The petitioner has been asking people to come to Chattanooga for 40 years to stay at her home and no neighbors knew of her activities until she was dragged to court in 2019.  Her main income is from the Airbnb rental home and will lose all her assets if she cannot continue to operate. Destroying the accused business and stopping her income is a heinous crime; U.S. Constitution guarantees protection.

The STVR Ordinance denies the “equal protection right” in highlighted in Crass v TN Valley Authority 460 F. Supp 941 (E.D. Tenn 1978) affd, 627 F.2d 1088 (6th Cir.1980).  The judges in that case say the equal protection right is violated by selective enforcement only when the selection is based on “arbitrary classification” and violates “reasonableness for the special classification.” To “test a municipal ordinance” one needs to find “reasonableness for the special classification.” There is no reasonableness with this ordinance except if you call the whims and opinions of Henderson reasonable?

Stalcup v City of Gatlinburg 577 S.W. 2d 439 TN 1878. An ordinance is not valid “if no reasonable basis for the special classification can found.”  No reason can be found for the special classification for this ordinance unless the City claims their special classification is those inside the overlay map, a new classification that is fabricated?

Classification on whim

The city’s STVR overlay map was drawn by the “opinion” of elected officials. Council member Chip Henderson created the map in negotiation with other council members. He effectively drew the map line across the city, down its streets. With marker in hand, he walked through neighborhoods and no classification along properties was evident.

However, Mr. Henderson and the council made a classification. The STVR ordinance overlay map is a created classification, by a line arbitrary scribbled by Henderson’s whims and opinions and by the whims and opinions of each councilman (councilman always means man or woman). This is no classification except those residences that landed inside the overlay map, these are the  privilege residences that can apply for a STVR certificate giving them the ability to earn money with their residences.

Laws are “not to satisfy the whims of certain individuals.” (Carr v State 196 TN 256.265, S.W. 2d 566. 1954;) “A statute which prescribes a class or a party for opinion’s sake is not constitutional.” (Mayor of Nashville v Althrop 45 (TN 3 cold. 554, 1886.)  Need I say more? The overlay map is made by whims and opinions, the overlay map and ordinances must be based on the law. A supporting Brief in progress and will be filed soon.

Houses facing each other across the line Henderson drew are treated oppositely. One house is banned as a short-term vacation rental destination; another, 200 feet away across the tarmac, is allowed to host out-of-town guests by private arrangement in the widely touted Gig City. 

The Airbnb ban of the eastern half of the city, created under the city’s zoning authority, abuses its power to promote the public health, safety, morals, convenience, order, prosperity and general welfare. It denies private families the right to earn money in the use of their private property, costing the local economy hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions.

The classification in the overlay map is more than just fairly debatable. It is palpably arbitrary. City of Chattanooga v. Harris, 223 Tenn. 51, 442 S.W.2d 602, 1969 Lexis 389 (1969).

Law based ‘on opinion’ not constitutional

The right of the people to be free from arbitrary law is of long standing. In Nashville v Althrop 45 TN (3 cold.) 554 (1886) the court states a law “which prescribes a class or a party for opinion’s sake is not constitutional.” 

The overlay map negotiated among city council members rests upon whim, not general principles affecting health, safety, welfare and morals of the people. See Carr v State 196 TN 256.265, S.W. 2d 566. 1954. Ordinances are “not to satisfy the whims of certain individuals” (1954). In Motlow v State 125 TN 547, 145 SW 177 (1911), the court says municipal ordinances “must be tested” for constitutionality and having a general nature.

The strength of the accused’s defense of her liberties is also seen in legal principles highlighted in State V. Nashville, C. & S.L.R. Co, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway Co. 124 Tenn 11; 135 S.W. 773; 1910, which highlights the rule for general laws. It cites the constitution’s Article 11, section 8, that bans “any law for the benefit of individuals inconsistent with the general laws of the land” and the federal 14th amendment that guarantees due process rights and equal treatment under the law. “The court affirmed, holding that the statute was arbitrary and vicious class legislation.”

This general law means the law has to be applied to all equally.  That laws cannot be made giving some individuals benefits that others don’t.  In this case the benefit is earning money and for nearly 1,000 residences, and many countless families in the future.  The city is denying those from earning extra income for their families, a huge loss now since nearly all were shut down. If these families didn’t need money, they certainly would not be letting strangers in their homes.

Accused is confident of her petition for injunction because she is confident in her overall position one of what the constitution calls the “free people” (Tennessee constitution, article 1, section 24) of Tennessee.

The David Tulis show is 1 p.m. weekdays, live and lococentric.

City extends ban on short-term vacation rentals

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