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Coralville flower seller faces shutdown order

Linda Edwards and her husband John Kane sell plants at their home business in Coralville on Saturday, July 3, 2010. Thei
Linda Edwards and her husband John Kane sell plants at their home business in Coralville on Saturday, July 3, 2010. Their hosta and day lilly business has been ordered to shut down by the City of Coralvile. (John Richard/Freelance)

Linda Edwards says she has sold hostas and daylilies from her home garden for a decade, but that likely will end next week.

On June 15, Edwards and her husband, John Kane, received a letter from James Kessler, a Coralville building and zoning official ordering her to shut down her business, Web Walkway, at 3121 12th Ave. by July 14 or face a fine of $750 daily for operating a retail business illegally in a residential zone.

“When I started my business 10 years ago, we were located in Johnson County with a rural Iowa City address,” Edwards said. “Five years ago, we were annexed against our will by the City of Coralville. The neighborhood got together and hired a lawyer to fight annexation, but we lost.”

Edwards said she spoke with Kessler after the annexation and was told that her business could continue as a grandfathered enterprise.

“We never had a formal agreement,” she said.

Edwards said details of what she sells have been on her website, www.webwalkway.com, for close to a decade.

The decision to “ungrandfather” her business followed an altercation between a customer and police regarding a “No Parking” sign.

“Three days later, I got this letter,” Edwards said. “Mr. Kessler suggested that I sell my hostas and daylilies at farmers markets and was not willing to compromise with me.”

Kessler said the cease and desist order was issued because Edwards has changed the nature and scope of her business since they spoke in 2005.

“At that time, she said she was selling slips of the hostas she was growing on her property,” he said. “For that, she was grandfathered.

“Over the course of the last five years, she has started to sell all kinds of plants. She even brings plants in on large trucks, unloads them and sells them.”

Kessler said the shutdown order was prompted by a Coralville police complaint about a truck delivering flowers to Edwards that was blocking a lane of traffic.

“We do have a provision for a home occupation, but everything must be conducted within the dwelling and there’s no outside retail sales,” Kessler said.

Edwards and Kane plan to appeal to the Coralville City Council.

“I’ve already bought $2,000 worth of stock for next year,” she said.“I’ve had an outpouring of e-mails from customers who were very upset when they learned that I’m having to shut down.”

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