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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.

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“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:



      • 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!


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