Reviving Sore Issue, Flagler Beach Readies to Ban Ice Cream Trucks Outright
FlaglerLive | September 25, 2013
In Flagler Beach, proposals that make residents angry never die. They just fade away to return at a later date, again and again. And so for the third time in 19 months, a proposal to regulate roving food vendors re-emerging, this time with a distinct difference: the proposal is in the form of an ordinance that singles out mobile vendors—and bans them altogether from city limits except during special events.
It is the most far-reaching and strict proposal yet, exceeding what most Flagler Beach city commissioners had suggested to date, and likely to again stir up the sort of anger and opposition that previous but vaguer such proposals had drawn when discussed in April and February 2012. The city commission takes up the proposal at its Thursday meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at Flagler Beach’s city hall. But the meeting agenda is stacked with more than two dozen items, with the mobile vendor item scheduled toward the end–when audience members have usually tired of the slog.
Flagler Beach doesn’t have a serious food vending “problem,” nor is it prone to much roving food-vending traffic. The proposals have been largely seen as targeting one vendor in particular: Sandy Kinney, a Bunnell resident who sells ice cream out of her truck, and has been doing so for several years in Bunnell, Palm Coast, unincorporated parts of Flagler County, and of course Flagler Beach.
But Kinney’s selling in Flagler Beach also angers existing ice cream businesses that have invested time and money on their brick-and-mortar locations, where they must abide by city regulations. To some of them, Kinney is afforded an unfair competitive advantage by being allowed to sell from her truck.
But by no means to all. Karen Barchowski, one of the three co-owners of Sally’s Ice Cream on North A1A, has championed Kinney’s operation all along. “I have supported her from day one,” Barchowski said, as have her two partners in the business.
City Commissioner Jane Mealy, who has led the charge against mobile vendors, has insisted that she’s never sought to ban ice cream trucks in particular, only to regulate mobile vending in general, which city ordinances leave entirely silent. The proposed ordinance ends that silence.
“This was what I was looking for to begin with,” Mealy said Wednesday. “I don’t see Flagler Beach as a town that has ice cream trucks or whatever kind of mobile vending just riding around, ringing bells, making all kinds of noise, and I think they’re very unsafe. Kids run out in the street without looking. I just don’t think they’re necessary.” Her strongest reason against mobile vending, Mealy added, is their unfairness to brick-and-mortar businesses, which pay rent, pay taxes and abide by regulations. “I think it’s more friendly to the brick and mortar businesses than to have those trucks around,” Mealy said.When the issue was previously discussed, Commissioner Steve Settle echoed Mealy’s concerns about safety, and favored limiting the range of vendors within the city to specific areas. But Commissioners Marshall Shupe and Joy McGrew were more supportive of mobile vendors—at least they were so last year. “I’m in favor of vendors,” McGrew said categorically, though she was willing to hear about some form of compromise that would regulate them—not ban them. Shupe had no opposition to ice cream trucks, but he was opposed to what he considered to be shadier vendors who may be hawking watches or meats out of their trunks. Legally, however, allowing one type of vendor but nto another could raise issues for the city.
Before writing the proposed ordinance, Drew Smith, the city attorney, had conversations with commissioners individually to get a sense of what they’d be comfortable for, Mealy said. “This seemed to be what people were saying,” Mealy said.
The proposed ordinance leaves no room for doubt: “Mobile sales operations and mobile food service operations, collectively described as mobile operations under this chapter, shall be prohibited unless such mobile operations are conducted at a special event for which a special event permit has been issued by the city.” And mobile food vending at special events will itself be limited geographically to the area where the event is taking place. In other words an ice cream truck may not travel up and down State Road A1A on July 4.
Both times the issue was raised previously, Kinney, who is a single mother and works several jobs, mobilized public opposition to turn back the city’s regulatory push. Because of her single-mother status and the fact that the vending in question focuses on an ice cream truck, the issue has had some emotional appeal as much as it’s raised questions about how Flagler Beach wants to define its support for business.
“I am sad to see this,” Lee Ann Page, who was among some two dozen people reacting to the issue on a Facebook page when it re-emerged in 2012, wrote. “Flagler beach is one of the most wonderful cities I ever lived in. I just don’t understand why they are not supporting the ice cream truck. Flagler is about small town living and what is more small town than an ice cream truck. Hope they wake up and support their small business than hurting them. I saw them hurt someone trying to upgrade the Pier restaurant also. That is so wrong.”
But Amy Wilson wrote in the same thread: “Is it possible that this issue is being driven by the other local Ice Cream shoppe? Does she have the permits, pay taxes and follow all the necessary mumbo jumbo that they do? If not, [then] this is a valid issue. All businesses should have to abide by the same set of rules. I applaud her for doing whatever it takes to make a living but at the same time her personal situation should not be a deciding factor. Who’s to say that the owner or workers at Sally’s Ice Cream aren’t in her same situation.” (Barchowski, Sally’s co-owner, again stresses that brick-or-mortar or not, Kinney has every right to have her ice cream truck.)