Palmetto commission to consider ban on Internet cafes

jdeleon@bradenton.comMarch 19, 2013 

PALMETTO -- In the wake of Internet cafés coming under fire in Florida, Palmetto officials passed a new moratorium on new applications for internet and sweepstakes cafes and is considering outright banning them.

Palmetto City Commission moved to put the issue of banning the cafes on the next commission workshop after concerns were expressed during Monday night's commission meeting in light of the role internet cafés have played in the investigations related to Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll's resignation.

"I think we should move forward with some ordinance," Commissioner Charles Smith said. "With a federal investigation going on we should move forward."

The city has recently been looking at this issue with the current moratorium scheduled to expire on March 31.

"Timing is everything," City Attorney Mark Barnebey said.

Palmetto originally passed a moratorium on the internet cafes back on Jan. 9, 2012, when the issue first became a hot topic.

At the time of the original moratorium's passage the city had two Internet cafes each of which was allowed to continue operating with their conditional use permit. The new moratorium would allow for the extension of these permits at the discretion of the city.

One reason the city had moved to pass a second moratorium was in hopes of getting some direction from the state Legislature on how to regulate these cafes.

"In light of where we were before last week and certainly where we are now, I am recommending we extend the moratorium," said Barnebey.

All this came hours after the Senate Select Committee on Gaming voted unanimously to pass a bill banning internet cafes that are operating electronic sweepstakes. Just Friday the House Select Committee also passed an identical bill in a 15-1 vote.

Commissioner Smith, with the presence of two such establishments in the city, feared the repercussions of waiting.

"I really think we need to take a stand on the issue," said Smith.

According to Barnebey the city continues to evaluate the cafes for any impact on the community in regards to noise, traffic and crime.

In other news, the city commission approved on second reading an amendment to the zoning code redefining recreation and amusement services and the schedules of permitted and conditional uses .

Based on staff recommendation City Planner Lorraine Lyn had proposed that dance classes and martial arts classes be added to personal services that does not require a conditional or special use permit.

"They are more of a neighboring service," Lyn said.

The amendment also included adding shooting ranges into the definition of recreation and amusement services.

The action came at the result of a proposed permit for a dance studio that was not allowed under the current code.

The commission had been scheduled to vote on a resolution urging state legislature to adopt statewide rules and regulations regarding the sale and marketing of candy tobacco. The item has been pushed back tentatively to the April 15 agenda.

Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. Follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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