PALMETTO -- The owner of Hot Spins 777 had about 30 supporters at the Palmetto City Commission meeting, despite not reporting a recent armed robbery and violating her 2010 conditional use permit by more than doubling the size of her business.
Palmetto city officials on Monday did not take action on a prior consensus to deny the conditional use permit for 1035 Hasko Road. Instead, commissioners unanimously voted to send the application back to the planning and zoning board.
Supporters of business owner Phalla Colman, as well as legal representation at Monday's public hearing that was continued from Jan. 25, numbered about 30 with several people speaking on Colman's behalf and none opposing.
At January's public hearing, the commission heard staff recommendations to deny the conditional use permit based on specific code requirements not being met, but also over concerns the business was attracting crime. Although there have been 18 reported incidents in the past few
years, other than the armed robbery last year, no other reports were directly tied to Colman's business.
Commissioners focused on Colman's violation of her existing permit, the illegal expansion of her business and a code requirement that should have been addressed in her 2010 application that does not allow her to operate a "recreation and amusement" business off of a primary arterial roadway.
The business is transitioning from an Internet sweepstakes cafe to a computerized skill games operation. With that change, Colman was forced to pursue Florida licensing, which requires at least 50 machines. Colman said she didn't realize she was violating city law while trying to comply with state law in expanding the business. But the expansion from 27 machines to 50 requires her to provide more parking.
Vice Mayor Harold Smith said the commission was misled about the criminal activity and argued repeatedly on the legitimacy of the city code's parking requirements on a building shared by several businesses. City planner Debra Woithe said there was no getting around the parking issue with the business expanding from 870 to 1,800 square feet.
"It's based on square footage according to the city code," she said. "If you approve a use that requires more parking, you create wear and tear on that property and need to address overflow parking. If you approve this, she has to have some kind of parking agreement with neighboring businesses. This isn't personal. It's just what your code says."
Ward 2 Commissioner Tambra Varnadore agreed, noting that if the council would have taken a vote, she would have to vote for denial.
"The parking issue has to be resolved," said Varnadore. "I have no problem with the business. I have a problem with the business exceeding its parking for the location."
In 2010, the code requirement that only allows an amusement or recreation business to be located on a primary arterial roadway was not discussed when approving Colman's application. Woithe said she went back and researched the prior application and the subject never came up.
Varnadore, who made the motion to send the issue to the planning and zoning board, said it's another major issue that "could set a dangerous precedent for future businesses."
At Large Commissioner Jonathan Davis said his issues are with the code requirements and At Large Commissioner Tamara Cornwell agreed. Ward 3 Commissioner Brian Williams said, "I'm on the fence on this one ... but you need to be understanding of what the rules are."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.