ARLINGTON, Va.—City officials in Fargo, North Dakota are backing off their illegal and unconstitutional order to shut down a small auto repair shop in the city. Today, the City Council voted to authorize its mayor to negotiate with the repair shop in order to avoid a potential lawsuit. The vote came in direct response to a letter sent three weeks ago by the Institute for Justice (IJ) urging city officials to allow John’s Repair to remain open.
John Bultman has operated John’s Repair for 42 years. Despite being in an area now zoned residential, John’s Repair was grandfathered in as a commercial property by city officials. When Bultman sold the property in May 2021, he continued to lease it from the new owner so he could run the business until he planned to retire in August 2023. However, in December 2022, city officials informed Bultman that he would have to shut down his business and remove all vehicles from the property by the end of March 2023. Had he failed to do so, he would’ve faced daily fines of $1,000 and possible legal action. Today’s decision by the city ensures Bultman won’t face that fate.
“We’re glad that city officials are now reconsidering their illegal and unconstitutional order to force Mr. Bultman to shut down,” said IJ Senior Attorney Erica Smith Ewing. “Stripping him of his grandfathered status would violate his constitutional rights and break Fargo’s own city ordinances.
“I wish the city hadn’t made it necessary to get lawyers involved, but I am glad they now seem open to doing the right thing,” added Bultman. “This issue has caused me so much stress for months. I’m 69 years old, I shouldn’t have to be worried about this right on the eve of my retirement.”