Roseburg Mayor Larry Rich took a few minutes out of Monday’s two-hour City Council meeting to discuss Lan Ha and her popular Wailani shave ice truck, which was abruptly shut down at the end of May after Ha said city officials told her she could sell her products at the park all summer.
Rich said he and other council members are restricted in what they can say publicly because Ha has retained an attorney to represent her. Ha had spoken to the council during its June 14 meeting, held via Zoom, and asked to begin a dialogue, but none of the councilors responded to her request.
Like that meeting, none of the city councilors spoke with Ha, or about her situation at Monday’s meeting. Instead, Rich read a brief statement in which he defended the city’s actions. He said that despite Ha’s insistence city officials assured her she could operate at Stewart Park all summer, the only permit she received was for the month of May.
“While the owner may have indicated she wanted to operate longer, this is the only permit she was issued, May 8 through the 30th,” Rich said.
Ha has said her verbal agreement with city officials in April called for the permit to be automatically extended each month of the summer as long as she paid the necessary fees. She also said the permit application she filled out only had the starting date of May 8 on it, and did not contain the May 30 end date that Rich referred to in his statement.
Ha points to email exchanges between herself and Kris Ammerman, parks and recreation manager for the City of Roseburg, in which Ammerman apologized for his “mistake” and “oversight.”
In one email, Ha notes, Ammerman wrote the following:
“My initial decision was made without all of the information. Once all of the information was presented to me, I realized I made a mistake and that I had to correct course. I consulted with city leadership and they confirmed that I had to rescind my decision to be in compliance. We cannot knowingly violate our own ordinances.“
On June 16, Ha, through her attorney, Charles Lee, filed a notice of intent to appeal her case to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals. Ha is asking that the state board reverse the city’s decision and allow her to serve shave ice at Stewart Park this summer.
The city has 21 days from the date the appeal was filed to respond to it, or it could reconsider or withdraw its decision not to allow Ha to sell shave ice at Stewart Park, Lee said.
City Manager Nikki Messenger has declined to comment on the appeal.
The dispute dates back to April. It was then that Ha said the parks department approved the permit allowing the truck to operate and told her she could stay there all summer.
She prepaid the city for the month of May and scheduled payments at the beginning of each month moving forward. Ha said was given the electrical key to the park.
The shave ice truck drew crowds upwards of 500 customers a day, Ha said she advertised the Stewart Park weekend location and posted items on social media to grow her customer base. Ha said she turned down several events because she wanted to focus on the growing business at Stewart Park.
Lee said he has been unable to find any zoning prohibition that would preclude the city from issuing a permit to the shaved ice truck. In fact, Lee said he could not find any rules or directions anywhere on the city’s website that pertain to how the city should make decisions on food trucks or concessions in parks.