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Rancho Mirage resident sues city, claiming her constitutional rights are violated

Wendy Heckmann is filing a lawsuit against the City of Rancho Mirage. She said the ordinance, which imposes limitations on household gatherings of 25 or more people, goes against her rights. 

"I have a large family, and to have my family over to dinner, I'd have to have a permit for every family dinner, which is absolutely insane. And it's unconstitutional," said Heckmann.

Heckmann has been a Rancho Mirage resident for nearly 20 years. Her eight-acre home is often used to host nonprofit events and family gatherings, like the American Cancer Society's Gala, weddings, and dinners.

"I never rent my house out. I don't make a profit from anything that we've ever done there. I don't use my house as you know a way to make money," said Heckmann.

She also said she's never received complaints from neighbors. 

"We've always had everybody out the door, everything locked up, everybody off the property in silence by 10 o'clock," said Heckmann.

Ordinance 1138 was put into effect in 2018. The City's deputy attorney, Michael Cobden, said it's to preserve the peace of the city’s residential neighborhoods by regulating certain special events. 

"It has certain rules about the time, the place, and the manner in which these events take place and requires an application and the permit process," said Cobden.

"That's not fair. That's my house. I pay my taxes; I pay my bills. That's not fair for them to be able to decide what I get to do at my own house," said Heckmann.

Heckmann said she applied for a permit in March 2022 for an event and never heard back from the City.

"They never said yes, no, they never did anything," said Heckmann.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday, and the City has yet to be officially served. 

Heckman ultimately wants to be able to gather without having to get a permit.

"The city will take a close look at the factual and legal arguments contained in the lawsuit and will evaluate the nature of those arguments," said Cobden.

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Marian Bouchot

Marian Bouchot is the weekend morning anchor and a reporter for KESQ News Channel 3. Learn more about Marian here.

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