PALMETTO -- Licenses for mobile food vendors which had expired Sept. 30 may be renewed even as the city continues working on a new ordinance that will eventually regulate their use, the Palmetto City Commission agreed Monday.
The commission adopted an ordinance in May setting a temporary moratorium on the approval and filing of applications for mobile food vendors until the city had identified the impact vendors had on traffic, health and safety. Vendors whose licenses are renewed before the new ordinance is adopted will then have to comply with the new provisions.
A draft ordinance presented to the commission Monday stated that pushcart and mobile food vendors must be at least 100 feet apart, that no more than two can be on each side of a block and that they are at least 100 feet away from any restaurant on the same block. They must also have copies of state or county health department licenses and permits.
"The whole intent is to look after full-time businesses that are paying taxes and supporting business that way," said Commissioner Brian Williams. "Not that food carts aren't providing a service but taxpayers first."
"We do pay taxes," said Georgia Drakopoulos, who owns and operates a hot dog stand along Eighth Avenue West.
Her license expired Sept. 30. "There are other vendors operating and I wish I could do the same," she told
Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said she had received feedback from restaurants about mobile food vendors. "They are not very pleased," she said.
"I'm not taking away from any business, there are a lot of people in my position who can't afford to pay $10 to $15 a day on lunch," Drakopoulos told the Herald before the meeting. "It's the ma and pas in little neighborhoods that have made America what it is."
Currently there are about three active mobile food vendors in the city, said Jim Freeman, city clerk. The commissioners asked the city attorney to continue working on the ordinance with attention to their proximity to restaurants that sell similar food.
At a workshop before the meeting, the commission discussed issues dealing with the creation of a housing authority, for which a petition was submitted in September. To establish a housing authority the city must pass a resolution declaring that there is unsanitary or unsafe inhabited dwellings or that there is a shortage of safe housing available at affordable costs, said Mark Barnebey, city attorney. Groover Bryant suggested inviting housing directors from nearby municipalities to answer questions and provide insight into the operation.
"You are not creating a housing authority for me, you're creating a housing authority for the residents," said Commissioner Charles Smith, who submitted the housing authority petition. Smith said he has heard about sex trade and rape in areas of Palmetto where housing conditions are unsafe. Having a housing authority would reduce crime by allowing the authority to buy deteriorating property, rehabilitate and rent it at affordable prices, he said.
In other actions, the commission approved a budget amendment request from the Palmetto Police Department to use $7,080 to pay for DNA forensic analysis related to a death investigation that started Aug. 30.