Earlier this month, Mountain Boy Sledworks announced that the company will no longer be selling its nationally recognized handcrafted wood sleds in its hometown of Silverton.
Mountain Boy owner Brice Hoskin said cutting off sales in town was his last option to protest more than a year of unfair treatment by city officials.
Hoskin also co-owns Montanya Distillers with his wife, Karen Hoskin, and most recently butted heads with the town about banners the couple hung outside the rum distillery at 1332 Notorious Blair St.
The five temporary banners, which advertised two upcoming concerts, celebrated the Fourth of July holiday and welcomed archaeologists to town, violated city code. The code allows only temporary banners that are associated with national, local or religious holidays.
Karen Hoskin said they hung the banners anyway because the town told them that temporary special-event banners were allowed. When they hung a banner advertising an upcoming visit by a band, however, the city gave them seven hours warning and then issued them a citation, she said.
Town Administrator Jason Wells said the citation was the only citation the town has ever given on sign code as far as he knows.
In municipal court Nov. 3, Judge Lyndon Skinner ruled against Montanya, citing that although the city hadnt enforced that part of town code in the past, the distillerys banner was officially prohibited.
For their defense, the Hoskins photographed almost 20 other banners on buildings around town that violated town code but hadnt been cited by officials. The Silverton Standard reported that town code enforcer Keith Thompson -rebuffed the Hoskins argument in court, saying he talked with other owners about sign regulations and almost all of them agreed to take down their banners.
The Hoskins decided to halt sales in Silverton so Mountain Boy sleds will no longer be supporting town officials with the sales tax it generates, Brice Hoskin said.
Maybe, as the saying goes, you cant fight City Hall. But you can take away some of their funding, Hoskin wrote in a letter to the editor. Because I cannot in good conscience continue to help Town Hall in this way, I will no longer be selling sleds in Silverton.
Wells said the Hoskins decision was unfortunate for the town.
He commented about how much media attention the Hoskins have been getting.
But I guess thats the point, he said, though he declined to comment directly about the couples motivations for resisting so strongly the citys regulations.
Other businesses said they havent had problems with the town but were hesitant to comment on the Hoskins situation.
One business owner said he recognized the influence of small town politics in the controversy.
A lot of us are interrelated, and some boundaries get crossed. You make one person mad, you make 30 people mad, said the business owner, who wanted to remain anonymous because his relative works for the town of Silverton. Its a small town, and sometimes things just dont get balanced out the way youd like.
The Montanya banner trial is the latest in a string of incidents involving the Hoskins businesses dating back to last year. The first occurred in October 2009 when town officials issued a stop work order to Mountain Boys downtown location.
Though most of Mountain Boys sleds are manufactured in China, the company was building about 200 sleds a year at its shop at 1314 Greene St. According to the towns zoning regulations, though, fabrication, manufacturing and assembly are prohibited in the downtown zone where the shop is located.
Media outlets picked up the story as a case of the town destroying jobs at one of the few winter businesses in Silverton.
Eventually, town officials rezoned the sledmaking room to make it a manufacturing zone. The Hoskins argued that their operations should be classified as arts and crafts operations and said rezoning was unnecessary and made no sense for the future of the town.
Almost three months later, in December 2009, the Hoskins received a notice from Thompson that Christmas lights they hung on a Montanya truck outside the distillery violated the citys sign code. Town officials said the lights on Montanyas truck made it into a moving billboard, which was not allowed.
The Hoskins soon removed the Christmas lights because the holidays were over, but they never reached a permanent resolution with the city.
The Hoskins guessed that Town Hall has singled them out because they werent quiet enough or had become too successful or were asking too many questions.
Tall poppy syndrome, Brice Hoskin said, and they saw us as a threat.
Even after all that has happened, the Hoskins said they could never leave Silverton.
The school system is incredible. We love Silverton. We love the people here, Karen Hoskin said. Weve been here for almost nine years. This is our home.