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Waynesboro on Rutherford's Complaint: ‘Matter is Closed' - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Waynesboro on Rutherford's Complaint: Tree Charity ‘Matter is Closed’

Posted: Updated: Jan 7, 2013 06:01 PM EST

Monday night the city of Waynesboro is responding to the threat of legal action over a charity Christmas tree sale in a residential area.

The Rutherford Institute warned the city it may be overstepping its authority.

Just before Christmas, the Charlottesville-based civil rights firm said it was "appalled" that Waynesboro would interfere with a citizen's effort to raise money for breast cancer patients. Monday the city said that even registered charities must operate within the law.

Christian Critzer began selling Christmas trees just after Thanksgiving, outside his home on Rosser Avenue. The city quickly warned him that retail activities were forbidden in residential areas.

Critzer began giving trees away, and simply requesting donations. The Rutherford Institute says that meant his operation was no longer "commercial."

But the city is standing firm.

"We feel like the matter is closed at this point. We feel like the code was properly applied, based on the information given to us, and at this point, the matter is over," said Deputy City Manager Jim Shaw.

He says Waynesboro is drafting a letter to the Rutherford Institute, explaining its position. NBC29 will share a copy of that letter as soon as it's released.

This is the second winter in a row that Rutherford has challenged Waynesboro. Last year it was over churches that couldn't get a permit to open temporary homeless shelters. That issue was resolved by a zoning ordinance change.

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