Two weeks ago the King’s Bistro was selling Italian Sausage, hamburgers and hot dogs from a food truck on Founders Corner. This was the next step in building Founders Corner into a low cost center for active commerce in Northeast St. Petersburg. These services increase the access to low cost, high quality food and ensure more jobs for local residents of St. Petersburg. Things were going great, until the city of St. Petersburg’s regulators stepped in and decided that such activity was “not permitted”. The city has decided they would only allow this food truck to operate for a two week period on the private property called Founders Corner and then ban any more such activity for the next six months.
That includes ANY “roadside market” activity that may include events like the Founders Corner Arts and Crafts Festival that ran there in 11/11. So, now we see how the city kills even the most basic of economic activities with overbearing and nonsensical regulation. Can there be any doubt that when it comes to bigger economic activities, they cause even GREATER damage? (This issue was recently featured in a Tampa Bay Times Editorial).
(Quotes and Images of those featured on the “Free Markets” monument at Founders Corner). Maybe government leaders should come and read this monument.
What is inspiring this move? The city cites an ordinance, (16.50.410 (9)),which is only applicable to situations where food is NOT displayed outside a building where food is also on display inside. It is this ordinance that mentions the two week limitation. The city would be better directed to use paragraph 10 of the same ordinance which allows the city zoning department more leeway to authorize “Other temporary uses”. What is really inspiring this move is an insatiable need to control the uncontrollable: freedom and a free market. It seems the city leaders feel that the city must be molded in the image THEY envision. They don’t seem to trust the market and its ability to produce far more good with far less damage than they.
Certainly the Sun Beam Times does not dispute the right of the city to reasonably regulate some commerce through zoning laws, but the city has acted in a completely unreasonable way and in areas it where should not be involved. There is no health and safety issue here as the trucks are allowed to operate under their state issued food license. There is no traffic issue as the truck is parked in the middle of private property off the road. There is no noise nuisance, dangerous activity or any other reasonable problem the city can cite to deny this permit. It would be more appropriate to say that a piece of property located in this commercial zone on 4th st and 62nd Ave N should require NO permit for any limted set of reasonable and low impact activities conducted on it if there is no complaint from a neighbor of that property.
There is something else going on here. It could be that some restaurants don’t want the competition, but there is no restaurant within 200 yards or more. Perhaps the city leaders think that it “looks bad”, but isn’t that a decision for those who own the property and are willing to take the risks? If customers find it to be an eye sore, they will not go to the food truck or will complain to the property owners.
It is most ironic that the city is denying this permit on Founders Corner which contains monuments to “Free Markets” , “Property Rights” and “Individual Liberty” among other founding concepts. The owner of the property, this owner, is expected to pay taxes, gain city approval for construction of the monuments and for the electrical service on the lots. But when it comes to generating an income to cover the costs imposed by the city, it appears that freedom will be denied.
This City Council and Mayor are in need of a quick education on freedom and property rights. They should take a leadership role and allow these food trucks to operate with minimal interference from the city. A simple phone call from the Mayor is all it will take or a new ordinance by City Council. They are actively crushing economic activity in a city that desperately needs jobs. They are forcing owners that live in St. Petersburg and nearby to travel to Tampa to operate their Food trucks, draining their earnings and driving up energy waste and pollution in the process. The Sun Beam Times will stay on this story and Dr. McKalip, the owner of the property and publisher of this blog, will work to change the city’s misguided approach to freedom and economics.