Disabled Man Loses Home Business Due to City Code in Big Spring

By Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

BIG SPRING - Paul Johnson runs a soda and ice cream shop out of his Big Spring home.

"I do this basically for the neighborhood kids and the people of the community," Johnson said.

Paul's family purchases the discounted sodas and ice cream. Then he sells them to anyone who will come.

"I sell cokes for $.40 and ice cream for $.50 and the idea is to allow a child of the neighborhood to come up and get a soda, an ice cream bar and a bag of bubble gum for a dollar or less.

Signs hang in his window and neighbors complained that because he generated so many kids  coming to his home it may cause a traffic accident.

"We have received complaints dating back to 2006 at this particular address," Todd Darden, Asst. Manager for Big Spring, said. "We've been investigating complaints by neighbors in the area as to city code violations. Upon our investigation it was found that there were 4 violations on city code, and we ask that they be corrected within 10 days. There is only one appealable item, and that is operating a vending machine."

Mr. Johnson says, this is his main source of income. He has applied for other jobs, but there's just one problem.

"I'm legally blind, and can't drive back and forth to work everyday to an occupation," Johnson said. "This gives me something to do from home, where I reside and at the same time, I can be a benefit to the neighborhood community."

But when the neighbors complained, the city stepped in, and searched his home.

"I was surprised," Johnson said. "I didn't know it was illegal and they could ask me to shut down. Then I started wondering 'What am I going to do for a living? How am I going to work?"

The city says, the advertisements were the main violation.

"We informed him, the only thing he can appeal is the vending machine, but the other items have to go away as far as advertisement for the home occupation," Darden said.  "It's a residence, we don't want it to look like a buisness."

The Texas Division for the Blind has sent a letter to the city on Paul Johnson's behalf.

"If enough people get behind this, something will get done," Johnson said.

He has filed an appeal to the city to continue his home store.

"I'm just selling cokes for $.40 and ice creams for $.50. I'm not doing anything bad," Johnson said.

A hearing will be held sometime during the next 30 days to determine whether or not Mr. Johnson can continue operating his vending machine, but in the meantime, he just hopes to have a way to make ends meet.