Friday, August 17, 2012

Virginia vintners taste the police state

At the center of all this is the county zoning administrator, a bureaucratic czar named Kimberley Johnson, whose bullying and heavy-handed enforcement tactics have resulted in calls for her dismissal by county farmers and residents. Johnson was recently the subject of a citizen-farmer "pitchfork protest" in a matter in which she fined one farmer for conducting a pumpkin carving and a birthday party for eight little girls without the proper permit.
The winery ordinance is Obama-esque, passed under the pretext that it protects the health, safety and welfare of the public. It forces wineries to close at 6 p.m. and prohibits sale of food -- something that goes quite safely with a taste of wine -- unless the wineries obtain special permits from the zoning administrator.
Among the prohibited activities, the ordinance includes anything else determined by the zoning administrator "to be similar in nature or in impact to" the listed activities. That's the equivalent allowing police officers to ticket drivers for nearly anything they wish.
The winery ordinance comes with potential criminal penalties, yet it has weak standards of evidence and due process to protect the innocent. It's a civil liberties and property rights nightmare on its face. Chicago politics and even dictatorships mask their tyrannical abuses of law better than this.
Perhaps the most offensive provision of the ordinance authorizes "private personal gatherings" at wineries. Someone obviously forgot to tell Fauquier officials that in America, we don't need government permission for private personal gatherings on our own property.

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