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Citing Health Concerns and Competition, Palm Coast Kills Home-Based Bakeries

| April 17, 2012

Cheryl Sheppard's plans for a small home-based bakery in Palm Coast were deflated. (Cheryl Sheppard)

Last Updated: 5:34 p.m.

It should have been on this morning’s Palm Coast City Council meeting agenda, for the council’s approval: an ordinance changing the rules about home-based businesses slightly, to make it possible for small, home-based bakeries to have a go. In mid-February, when the proposal first went before the council, three of the five council members, including Jon Netts, were supportive of the initiative—Netts by a thread.

The proposal never made it to today’s meeting: last week Netts reversed course and was the swing vote against the initiative, which the city administration, too, opposed—if also by a small margin when all the pros and cons were listed. The rejection adds to the city’s pattern of conflicted reactions to start-ups–supporting them with one hand while scuttling them with the other.

“I’m inclined to leave this one on the shelf for the time being,” Netts said. “I’d really like to see the experience of other communities, see how it works. I take very seriously the idea of unfair competition, I take very seriously the eroding of our residential standards, on the other hand, here’s somebody who wants to entrepreneurship at its finest, at its greatest, but that’s a benefit to an individual, whereas these other issues are community issues.”

Cheryl Sheppard and Rick de Yampert, the Palm Coast couple at the heart of the initiative to allow home-based bakeries, did not settle for the council’s decision, and took issue with the fact that the decision was reached in a workshop, as most of the council’s decisions are, absent input from the public. (Sheppard and De Yampert had met with the mayor several months ago and written a long email to the city, detailing their plan.)

In a strongly-worded joint appearance before the council this morning, De Yampert and Sheppard asked for another workshop at which they would be allowed to make their case in person.

“It seems you’ve already decided this issue, and this is key, Cheryl and I did not even have any chance to address you, the council, before you decided,” de Yamperrt said. “A public workshop meeting in which the public can provide no input? To us such a government process seems fundamentally flawed and backward. Yes, perhaps every issue that comes before the council in a workshop session does not merit being placed on the council’s regular meeting agenda. But consider the facts of our cottage food proposal. Yes city staff had voiced their disapproval of the measure. But the planning and land development regulation board gave its unanimous approval at its March 21st meeting. Two council members have voiced their support of the proposal at the April 10 workshop. Two expressed opposition, leaving mayor Netts to state, quote, that makes me the swing vote.”

There is no mass movement toward starting home-based bakeries. There is no outcry against the idea, either. There was the Sheppard-de Yampert proposal. They want to operate a small bakery at their home, sell the goods at festivals and special events, and deliver to other homes or local businesses. They were not planning a large operation: net gross, in accordance with a state law that permits such bakeries (as long as local governments go along) would be below $15,000. They would not sell to customers coming to their door.

For all that, much of the council’s opposition at last week’s workshop, especially that of council members Bill Lewis and Netts, focused on the precedent-setting notion of such a home-based business damaging the fabric of residential neighborhoods because of the traffic it would incur, even though Sheppard and de Yampert, in their documentation to the city, had stressed that there would be no such traffic.

“I don’t want to stop anyone from having a business, I’m for small business, but there’s a place for it,” Lewis said.

“I have to agree with Mr. Lewis,” Netts said. “If I buy a house, once a year the family next door has Thanksgiving dinner when 20 relatives come, they park in my swale for four hours while they eat turkey and dressing and mashed taters and all that good stuff, then they go home. I can put up with that. But if I’m going to have a steady stream of people day in and day out, coming to the home to buy stuff, now you’ve diminished the quality of that residential neighborhood.” He continued: “I would be opposed to permitting sales from the home because then the next thing you have is a little sign in the window and the next thing you’ve got is a little lawn sign in the front lawn and pretty soon you’ve got a storefront in a residential neighborhood. In my mind the jury is still out on the whole issue of food preparation in the home, I’ve used this analogy before, if we permit it, there is a presumption on the part of the public that everything is OK, the city wouldn’t allow something to happen that’s not.”

Netts and council member Bill McGuire, however, had other objections as well: the risk that home-based bakeries might produce goods that, absent proper inspections, could make people sick, and the risk the city incurs by being blamed for the results, even though the state, not the city, is in charge of overseeing such businesses.

“I’m more concerned about the imprimatur that the city says it’s OK to buy these cupcakes,” Netts said. “People expect the government to protect them from harmful circumstances. By us permitting this we are giving our tacit approval.”


Council members Frank Meeker and Jason DeLorenzo’s strong support for the concept did not sway their colleagues. “This was supposed to be the incubator concept where they developed the business first then moved it out,” Meeker said, noting both the city’s supposed support for small business start-ups (it is paying for what it calls a Business Assistance Center as a centerpiece of its commitment to economic development) and the difficulties small businesses have establishing themselves at first. Sheppard’s plan was to start small and grow.

Netts doesn’t buy it. “My sense is that these businesses won’t grow. That they’ll be perfectly happy baking their cupcakes and taking them to the rock and rib fest and setting up a booth and selling, and that’ll be the extent of it,” he said, casting his opposition.

Sheppard this morning dismissed the council members’ concerns as essentially unfounded. “We would be just as invisible as any other Class 2 business,” Sheppard said, referring to the sort of businesses—like accountants, lawyers similar professions—that routinely operate out of homes. “No customers at our home, no deliveries, etc. As for enforcement, every neighbor on our street would provide enforcement. The moment a pastries for sale sign goes up, traffic goes up, is the moment you get a phone call and we’re out of business.”

Sheppard and de Yampert won a concession: with DeLorenzo and Meeker pushing for yet another workshop on the matter, they’ll get to be heard. But the matter is likely again to fall on Netts as a deciding factor, unless either McGuire or Lewis find room for compromise.

A careful, detailed analysis by the city administration appeared to go out of its way to present the issue objectively, laying out detailed arguments for the concept and arguments against.

“The request to allow cottage food production as a home occupation furthers economic development because allowing cottage food production as a home occupation lowers barriers to entry into the retail food markets,” the analysis reads. “Otherwise, individuals have to procure time at certified commercial kitchens to produce baked foods for sale to the general public. Cottage food production would allow for experimentation with different foods and recipes with limited start up costs to determine what type of product would have market appeal.”

But the analysis also laid out the risks, one of which resonated especially with Netts and McGuire: “Effective monitoring of cottage food production would require entering homes to verify food safety, which the City lacks the authority, technical expertise and manpower to do. The State of Florida has assigned its right of inspection to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which is only triggered if a complaint is received.  No inspection of the food production premise will be conducted by the Flagler County Health Department or the City of Palm Coast.”

A couple of hours after killing the proposal, the city council headed to Panera Bread on State Road 100 for an invitation-only opening of the new bakery. Meeker and DeLorenzo were perplexed at Netts’ turn-around—a turn-around that appeared even more perplexing when Netts summed up his welcoming words to Panera (a company that revenue of $1.8 billion last year), during the ribbon-cutting, with this: “Your success is our success.”

Download Palm Coast’s staff analysis of home-baked bakery proposal

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46 Responses for “Citing Health Concerns and Competition, Palm Coast Kills Home-Based Bakeries”

  1. Gia says:

    About time to see some common sense.

  2. Angela Smith via Facebook says:

    Sorry, Palm Coast, but this was a REAL “dumb-dart”.

  3. Layla says:

    Question: Do people operate licensed catering businesses out of their homes? If so, and these people went throught the licensing procedures (possibly using the new small business assistance center at the Gov’t. Center to keep costs down), would it not be possible to mayble call this a catering business as long as nobody came to their home for the baked goods?

    I have a cousin who started a wedding cake business in this manner until she grew to very successful and had to move into commercial headquarters in order to be able to handle all the orders she was receiving. She now sells nationally.

    Don’t know the circumstances here, but it’s worth a trip to the business assistance center for these people to find out.. We need to be helping them, not hindering them.

    Any thoughts from others? I do not know the legalities of this.

  4. jrenee says:

    I certainly wouldn’t want to eat that stuff…who knows if a dog or cat or anything else contaminated it!

    • Anita says:

      In that case, you should never, ever eat out because if you ever saw some restaurant kitchens, you’d faint.

  5. Trish Sweeton via Facebook says:

    I am not understanding competition, I would think that baking is a passion and an art. That’s me for thinking.

  6. Dede Siebenaler via Facebook says:

    Palm Coast is so BACKWARDS!!!!!! I feel sorry for you Flagler County/Palm Coast residents!!!! Y’all need to CLEAN HOUSE on a governmental level, and get some people WORKING FOR YOU, not themselves and BIG BUSINESS!

  7. Geezer says:

    The only thing that “makes people sick” in Palm Coast is our apathetic government.

    Here we have some people who want to rise above and EARN some honest money.
    These same people who can’t find employment in Palm Coast.

    Yeah right, Mr. Netts want’s to protect our health.
    Better that the would-be bakers commute to work in St.Johns, or Volusia? (now that’s healthy)
    Heck we can all afford four-dollar-a-gallon gasoline! Who needs grocery money?

    So screw the average Joe, Mr. Netts wants to protect his pet Panera from “unfair competition.”
    Don’t you worry your little Panera heart, no stupid home bakery will cut into your profits.
    Mr. Netts is on the case! Hail to the chief.

    Thanks for protecting us regular folks from earning much needed money.

    “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device”

    • Bob sCHOLER says:

      I think youre gight Geezer WE SHOLD ALL BOYCOTT PANERA BREAD AND SEND A LETTER TO CORPRATE(PANERA BREAD) AND TELL THEM WE ARE DOING THIS MBECAUSE OF MR NETTS.

      • Layla says:

        Hold on there, Mr. Scholer. Panera had nothing to do with this. If you boycott Panera, Mr. de Yampert may be out of a job. Didn’t the earlier article say he has a job there as a baker?

        Don’t you think there is room for both in PC?

        [Layla, an earlier version had mistakenly reported that de Yampert's wife, who is a professional baker, had a job there.FL]

  8. ric says:

    Good. I think unregulated businesses from home where food or food products are made available should never be allowed..

    • Anita says:

      That’s the way many successful businesses start. Guess you never bought any goodies from a bake sale either.

  9. As someone who owns a cottage kitchen bakery (and thankfully DOES NOT live in Palm Coast), I must say this is ridiculous. I started my cottage kitchen after losing my job as a source of supplemental income while looking for full-time employment. There are lots of people in the same boat today. We should be applauded for our ingenuity during tough times.

  10. Rick G says:

    Thanks Palm Coast City Council for once again standing up for small businesses. NOT!!!! All of the reasons cited by Netts and Lewis would be zoning violations for any type of activitiy within a residential neighborhood. If the goods are transported out of the house and nobody comes there to buy those goods how is that depreciating the quality of the residential district? Something smells here and unfortuately it’s not Ms. Sheppard’s cookies.

  11. Businessman says:

    Palm Coast is anything but business friendly.
    Reasons seem to materialize when these councilors DON’T want something.
    When they are in favor such as ” the city has the money for a new city hall” their justification is never ending.

    If this city/county is such a swell place for a business then where are all the businesses?

  12. Kelly Mangaroo via Facebook says:

    Ridiculous. There are lots of people who bake from home (bake to order, and deliver) in Palm Coast. I’m fans of several on FB. At least one of these bakers was even issued a business license in the past month. So where is this fine line where it is okay for one person, but not the next?

  13. Anonymous says:

    I don’t see how Palm Coast is going to thrive with this mentality. Unfortunately, Palm Coast’s residential neighborhoods were built without any kind of commercial infrastructure to support it. Flagler County in general is suffering because of this. Honestly, what do we have here other than awesome beaches, parks, and a few big box stores?? They can’t have their cake and eat it too (no pun intended). I agree that running storefront’s out of a residential area would be detrimental but I do believe that home-based businesses should be allowed to exist as long as they are delivering their items and not allowing customers to pick them up within the neighborhood.

  14. Gobstopped says:

    There are plenty of empty storefronts for people who want to start a business up. And many landlords out there are more than willing to help tenants out. Why can’t these folks get a business model that will work and then go about things the traditional way?

  15. HAD a business says:

    I TOTALLY agree with Businessman… Palm Coast is NOT business-friendly! My husband and I had a lawn care business – I know, I know – so do 3 other households per block… HOWEVER – we were very reputabe and extremely cooperative. We did EVERYTHING by the books – from licenses (state, county, AND city) to insurance to proper markings… we paid a lot of money to stay within the horendous codes set forth by our government. In doing so, we couldn’t park our truck in our driveway because it had our name on it – very tactifully I might add, we were scorned for having the trailer in the driveway in the time frame it took us to take it in and out of our garage, we were haunted by a couple neighbors whenever we had to do a minor repair to any of the equipment. We have code enforcement to our house at least once a week due to a complaint by a particular neighbor. Repeatedly, code would come out, tell us we aren’t doing anything wrong, and they’d leave. We started our business due to my husband getting laid off from a job. Rather than sit home and soak up the tax payer’s money – oh my gosh, he went looking for work – a novel concept not held by many. Moreso, rather than the city appreciating ‘small business’ – they do what they can to deter you by creating stupid codes that unnecessary. The time came to quit the business and move on – but we miss it. We miss the interaction – we miss the amazing reviews – we miss just being able to say that we were business owners. It’s ok for those able-bodied people to to sit on their rumps and get paid… it’s ok for those baby-makers to produce more and more children so they can collect more… it’s ok for those who aren’t disabled to find a way to claim it – - all at taxpayers expense… but shame on the average joe trying to provide for his family. This poor couple in the article above just wants to make an honest dollar. To the two of you – fight the fight and don’t give up! Take it to city hall and beyond if needed. Every company started somewhere… you start small and grow. I hope that you fight and you win… you win and become successful… i hope you become so successful that you earn enough money to open a HUGE storefront… mayor Netts is favoring and protecting Panera – - as if they are a threat (not yet at least). Good luck to the 2 of you – you deserve what you have worked for!

  16. Anonymous says:

    If you don’t trust the baker, don’t buy from them. If people don’t buy from the baker, the baker can’t have a business and there will be no signs etc. I commend those that are trying to make an honest living, and its a shame some officials have invovled themselves. Better not have a lot of party’s and friends, they will pass something that will prevent that too.

  17. Geezer says:

    One more thing…

    Times are tough, and now is when we relax some restrictions, so that those who are struggling
    can pull themselves out of the hole.

    Better that my neighbor bakes to make money, instead of me helping load their moving truck
    as they abandon their unaffordable home.

    Garage sales are fine with me too. Palm Coast is a little too pretentious for its collective good.
    It is what it is, mostly retired Yankees and hard working families.
    What is this illusion we’re trying to project anyway?

    Garage sales (limited here) and apple pies are an American institution.
    What? We’re too good for these everyday activities?
    WE ARE WORKING CLASS.
    And you don’t let us work, even when we devise ways to work and earn money.
    Something Mr. Netts couldn’t do for us.

    The city follows cars pulling mowers to harass and discourage us from earning a
    buck by mowing a lawn. It’s like living in a fish bowl.

    No wonder Palm Coast is full of grumpy people.

    Are we going to arrest Girl Scouts for selling cookies too?

  18. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    I don’t want to hear another damn word from Netts about how difficult it is to bring jobs to Palm Coast and about how he and the council are doing whatever they can. It’s difficult because some members of our city council think they were anointed Mother and Father of the city instead of being elected to represent our interests. I don’t need some politician deciding whether or not the cup cake I buy at the festival is safe or not, I’m pretty certain I can make that decision on my own. And I certainly don’t need some politician deciding that someone who starts a business form their kitchen is somehow gaining an unfair competitive advantage over an established store front business. That’s not for a politician to decide! Reminds me of a few years ago when the city denied an application to open a tire store over behind Walmart because as a so-called republican Alan Peterson said (who was on city council at the time) “We’ve got enough places to buy tires”. This mentality has got to change.
    If someone wants to open a business in their house that will have zero effect on their neighbors, it’s none of the city council’s business.

    The couple should go ahead with their business anyway. How would the city even know?

  19. B. Claire says:

    Hey Geezer…

    “The city follows cars pulling mowers to harass and discourage us from earning a
    buck by mowing a lawn. It’s like living in a fish bowl.”

    Really? You mean they literally follow you. Harass you? How do they do that…? The folks in the PC white trucks?

    Thnx….

    • Geezer says:

      Hello B. Claire,

      Code enforcement follows you. It happened to me.
      I told them I was doing my friend a favor.

      I always enjoy reading your comments.

      Geezer

  20. Donna Heiss says:

    Paula Deen started her business in her kitchen making sandwiches and haveing her sons sell them when they were young. She was an unwed mother and needed to provide for her boys. She has quite the business now. Lets not forget about Mrs. Fields Cookies too, also started in her kitchen. Just a thought.

  21. Betty says:

    I think its time to change the name of this city from Palm Coast to PALM TOAST. The city will never get more businesses to build or open storefronts here. Too many STUPID rules and way too many “not so intelligent” city council members. There are now 8 empty houses on my block because my neighbors could not find work. Since they are still under the age of 65, they have NO government supplement coming in to help. This city only caters to home owners over 65 or rich. Maybe the next name should be changed to EMBALM COAST !

  22. PC Voter says:

    Thanks Palm Coast Council members who voted this down! Your vote spoke for the people!

  23. Jojo says:

    The City of Palm Coast should not be getting into this venture and licensing of home bakeries. Who is going to regulate for health inspections. Yes, health and sanitation of food handling and cooking cleanliness. Why is the City doing this. How much is generated for licensing.

    There is a beautician in my neighborhood that has cars coming and going all day long. She works Fridays and Saturdays at a parlor (where she gets her contacts and lures them away for her own home business). Isn’t that unfair to the owner who must pay staff, supplies and other licensing expenses as well as rent to operate the business.

    I didn’t move to Palm Coast to be disturbed by unnecessary traffic and noise in a residential setting because someone wants to run a business out of their home. Palm Coast Code Enforcement has ruined this City.

  24. snapperhead says:

    foreclosures and for sale signs on every other house and the Netts-wit is worried about “diminishing the neighborhoods”? that’s priceless. LMAO

  25. real people says:

    wait till your hear my story with the business Assistance center, I will be in touch. I pray for America.

  26. patty says:

    OMG! What a dumb move. Palm Coast is one of the most business-unfriendly small towns I have ever seen and I have had ,and known friends with many succesful ventures in other towns. Although the officials here tout that they want to do everything they can to bring in businesses to town, their actions are the opposite. I dont know what this anti-business sentiment, stems from, especially towards small family run busnesses, but the facts point to either stupidity or corruption or both.

    And yes, Geezer above, is right. I think he means cop cars which are county not city, are the ones harrassing people.

    • dontbesoparanoid says:

      Patty I had no idea cops here harass business people. How do they do that? Maybe they’re like the Mafia and rough up store owners and take payment for allowing businesses to operate in this county? And if they don’t pay up Officer Mugsy takes them out. OMG!! I must run and warn everyone. If you don’t hear from me again, they got me too.

  27. real gator fan says:

    palm coast is going to “permit” itself into oblivion. of course with the vast majority of city,county, and school board employees from new york and new jersey what do you expect. they run business off as soon as they apply for a permit. pathetic.

  28. Jim J says:

    the City council DID NOT vote the will of the people

  29. Dorothea says:

    Until you’ve lived in a neighborhood with a few homebased businesses you have no idea how much traffic and disturbance they generate. From delivery trucks to customers, there is a steady stream of traffic and cars are parked all over the place. However, in the case of a home-based bakery, the licensing should have been done on a case by case basis. There is no harm done if sales are not out of the home.

    As for health inspections, the Department of Agriculture takes care of that. Unlike large commercial canning and baking establishment that are allowed only a “small” number of insect parts when undergoing inspection, I would be less fearful of a home-based bakery being hazardous to my health.

    Really stupid decision by the Palm Coast governance.

  30. David says:

    I don’t seem to understand what the city government intentions are when it comes to allowing and regulating what kind of business can be worked out of a person’s home and what businesses can not be worked out a person’s home. They allow lawn services, home daycare, and those who work businesses related to computer use, and a few more.But it seems like they pick and choose what businesses are allow and what are not. Either ban all businesses from homes, or allow people to work his or her trade from their homes, as long as they meet government regulations in safety, health and environmental codes. .

  31. Jojo says:

    The State Department of Agriculture is not going to regulate home based bakeries. They already have too much on their plate. If a salmonella outbreak occurs from one of these home based bakeries how can it be traced to a single home and further, how will the local Flagler Health Dept, the State Health Dept and the Center for Disease Control coordinate efforts to notify, investigate and dissimainate warnings? Legally, can Palm Coast [Code Enforcement] be held liable for permiting and inspection if such outbreak was to occur?

  32. B. Claire says:

    Hey Geezer,
    B. Claire says:
    “The city follows cars pulling mowers to harass and discourage us from earning a
    buck by mowing a lawn. It’s like living in a fish bowl.” Really? You mean they literally follow you. Harass you? How do they do that…? The folks in the PC white trucks?
    Thnx….

    Reply Geezer says:
    Hello B. Claire,
    Code enforcement follows you. It happened to me.
    I told them I was doing my friend a favor.

    I always enjoy reading your comments.
    Geezer
    ————————————–
    Thank you Geezer :) Hope PC reads this thread and lightens up on such activity.
    ————————————–

    RE Home Bakeries…. I would vote YES. Anyone who grew up on Mom’s good ole Frozen Pizzaburgers, Day-old, discount bakery goods, etc. could not begin to be hurt by anything made with tender loving care in one’s own kitchen. Please, I’m begging one of you lovely bakers… move to my block!! :)

  33. jenni says:

    I have a home base business here in Palm Coast. I feel extremely lucky to not have had these run ins with city officials. The city has never given me an iotta of trouble. However, I am not in the food service industry. I personally would not buy from a place that is not inspected by the health dept. I notice in the photo the lady is not wearing a hairnet and I see lots of items on the floor..are these ingredients I wonder? I do wish the lady luck and respect any entrepreneur.

    • Emily says:

      Jojo- The Department of Agriculture actually DOES in fact inspect these businesses. The legal ones and ones run by bakers who actually care and are passionate about what they do. That includes mine, and thankfully I don’t live in Palm Coast. Its called the Cottage Food Act and it is REQUIRED to run one of these businesses. I know of several home bakeries in Palm Coast and I know for a fact that at least one council member is a regular customer of one of them. This is a ridiculous move on the cities part.

  34. Sara says:

    Emily….Where are you located? Because here in Florida home-based bakeries are not required to be inspected (individual cities my require I guess but state does not)…that is why they must label their products as ‘uninspected’. The city of Palm Coast says they do not have the resources in code enforcement to inspect and monitor these bakeries.

    Here is a link to some information put out by Florida’s Dept. of Ag….http://desoto.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/CottageFoodAdvisory.pdf.

    I am looking for as much info on this debate as I can get so if anyone out there has some helpful information I would appreciate it.

    • Sara, yes, cottage food businesses will not be inspected. However, contrary to what some of the Palm Coast council stated, the state will indeed investigate if there is a complaint. This info is included in the link you cite. Some of the council stated the city would have to investigate food contamination complaints,and that is not true. The city would only have to address code violations — signs, customers coming to homes, etc.

      And again, as the people who made this proposal, we would adhere to the Class 2 home occupation codes ALREADY in place, meaning we would be an “invisible business” with no deliveries, signage or customers at our home. For anyone who happens to live near a home-based bakery that is abusing the rules, a simple phone call to the city should lead to that rule-breaking biz being shut down.

  35. Sara says:

    Cheryl,

    Please don’t misunderstand….I am all for this. In fact I have been trying to figure out how to get in touch with you to better understand everything and to ‘join forces’ so to speak. I have spoken to council on the subject.

    I was just referring to Emily’s comment because I don’t think everyone posting here has all the facts and that’s where some of the misconceptions are coming from. For example… the comment about you not wearing a hair net in the photo….i doubt that person would want to wear a hair net for a publicity shot either. But entrepreneurs who are serious about their endeavors would take all the necessary food precautions and safety regulations in to account because one complaint could kill a start up very quickly. And this is part of what the city does not fully comprehend…those who are serious would not take any advantage of the situation.

    And that’s just one of the misconceptions. I see many more above. This is why I looking for as much info as i can get and would be grateful if you and I could at least get together and further discuss this topic.

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