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Council wants stronger law

CITY HALL — Spurred by a recent court ruling from a judge who took issue with the city's attempt to shut down a controversial banquet hall, the City Council is moving to strengthen city laws.

Under state law, the city has the right to petition for a legal injunction — a court mandate to stop violations of municipal code. On Tuesday, the City Council introduced an urgency ordinance that would strengthen that ability by expressly mentioning it in the code.

"We've needed this for a while," said Councilman Frank Quintero.

The ordinance comes in response to comments made by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge who ruled that the Montrose Collection Restaurant and Banquet Hall can continue to operate while city officials attempt to shut it down for land-use code violations.

City officials in June filed a complaint against Montrose Collection for allegedly operating without proper permits, citing an earlier court ruling that the city had the right to revoke the zoning exception that had allowed the banquet hall to operate.

But last month, Superior Court Judge William Stewart said he would not consider the city's request for a preliminary injunction against the restaurant until an appeal of the April ruling is settled. In his ruling, he said the city had not proven additional public harm would be caused by the restaurant remaining open.

Under the proposed ordinance, the city would no longer have to prove additional harm, said Chief Assistant City Atty. Mike Garcia. Instead, city officials would only have to prove the code violation, he added.

Once the new law is in place, city attorneys will evaluate whether to again try for an injunction against Montrose Collection, Garcia said.

The ordinance would be helpful beyond the city's ongoing dispute with the banquet hall, Garcia said, since it would apply to any violation of city laws.

"Any time there is a business that is operating without permits, it can be a nuisance to the neighborhood," he said. "It's nice to have that additional enforcement tool."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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