Former Mayor: “This is Wrong”

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With the full backing of the Local Planning Agency, former Mayor and current LPA Chair, Anita Cereceda will go before the Town Council Monday to object to mobile businesses like Queen of Weed popping up on Fort Myers Beach.

Cereceda will emphasize that this is not so much about what this business is selling, it’s about how the town has changed course from what they originally intended after the storm, which was to help existing business that lost everything.

At the LPA meeting last week Cereceda said it’s not about this business. “After the Hurricane, the Town Council generously decided to create an ability for existing beach businesses to operate in temporary situations. That was the effort and the sincere wonderfulness of the council. So something like Queen of Weed is not a business that was on Fort Myers Beach. It’s just somebody that’s come to lease space and that is not at all what was in that provision. I’m saying this in a public meeting to encourage the Town Council and the town staff to revisit this”

The Queen of Weed truck sits in the heart of Times Square on property owned by Terry Persaud. Persaud owned Sunset Grill which was a restaurant destroyed by the storm. He did not sell the products now available in the mobile truck he’s renting space to.

Cereceda said perhaps the change in course was due to the new staff, such as Town Manager Andy Hyatt and Operations and Compliance Director Frank Kropacek. “There could be a million different reasons. But the purpose behind it was to protect existing businesses on the island as they rebuilt. What I’m afraid is going to happen is, if this continues, the unanticipated consequence of not staying true to the original council intent, is, it’s going to squash redevelopment. It becomes a financial decision. If I can make a million dollars in a truck, why would I build a structure?”

The questions facing this Town Council are; Do they want the mobile businesses to continue to proliferate? How long is too long for mobile businesses to operate? If the Town Council knows a mobile business operator has absolutely no plans to rebuild, do they allow them to continue and for how much longer? If they do plan to rebuild, what date should they submit a plan?

Cereceda continued: “How long are you going to let this sit before you say; ‘Hey, I know you’re waiting for insurance money, but it’s an eyesore to our community. Hey, I know you’ve got a permit for a trailer but what’s your plan?'”

She added, “As we encourage redevelopment on the island, I think we have to be consistent and this right now is a sticky wicket for the town.”

When asked whether this is a code enforcement issue by another LPA member, Community Development Director Sarah Probst said “We should be validating whether they were here or not previously.” That contradicts the approval of the Queen of Weed permit.

Cereceda went on to say that the Fort Myers Beach code states that mobile vendors are not permitted in the town. Here’s the section of the code (96-14) Cereceda was referencing: “Transient merchant means any person who engages in the temporary business of selling, offering for sale or exhibiting for sale any goods, wares or merchandise within the town from any motor vehicle, wagon, truck or trailer, or who hires, leases, uses or occupies any hotel or motel room, or any lot or parcel of land through or from which any goods, wares or merchandise, whatever type, form or characteristic, may be sold, offered for sale or exhibited for sale.”

She then noted that mobile vendors are permitted in the emergency ordinance (23-05) passed after the storm.

Cereceda said that what the council did after the storm had good-hearted intentions. She then added, “You have to decide what you want your community to look like.”

We sent the following questions to Town Manager Andy Hyatt and Operations and Compliance Director Frank Kropacek two times this week: Andy/Frankie: Can you give us clarification on the Queen of Weed permit and how they received a permit being they were not a pre-existing business in or anywhere near Times Square? Back in the early days of the storm the Town Council’s intent was to help existing businesses. Have things changed and any business can now apply for a “truck” permit as long as they have a willing rental partner?

Hyatt and Kropacek did not answer our questions. On Thursday, the town PIO sent us this statement from Kropacek: “The landowner did everything proper to secure the permit. Being on private property, and the fact that the Queen of Weed is not violating any Town ordinances, it is leaving us with no position to take at the moment. The Town does not necessarily like this, but for now, we have to allow it.”

The Town Council meeting begins at 9AM Monday and we will carry it live here on Facebook and on our YouTube channel.

21 COMMENTS

  1. I’m not in favor of permanent food trucks. But to rebuild is soooo expensive and complicated with all the new permits, rules, regulations etc. We just are starting to rebuild our storage units for our condo. 48 units. The project manager told us that all the new city codes since the hurricane has increased our expenses tremendously. Look at The Whale wanting to rebuild and all the issues with the parking spaces. You want people to rebuild? Get rid of all the red tape etc. Good luck on that.

  2. Honestly, If I had a business that got washed away from Ian, I would definitely rethink rebuilding a brick and mortar store. Shipping containers and food trucks can be driven off the island in the event of storm surge. I also don’t agree with what you are allowing on FMB these days. Huge buildings and homes going up all around us. Jeez, a food truck or the shipping container bar on Times Square, helps businesses survive. Insurance will not pay enough to build to the new codes. Anita needs to focus on her own businesses coming back instead of taking business away from those trying to still recover. If a land owner wants to lease their land to a food truck then that is their right. Storms are not going to get any weaker. So rebuilding brick and mortar shops and restaurants on FMB is kinda ridiculous. Then try to get them insured. I say if a business wants to stay mobile they should be able to. For the sake of not having to deal with the aftermath we have all endured from Ian.

  3. I am a non-resident here but have enjoyed vacationing in FMB for several years so I know my opinion doesn’t matter but I think allowing trucks from non-previous businesses is not a bad idea as long as time limits can be put on that get reviewed and re-approved maybe every 6-12 months. As part of the approval process,make owner provide plans for rebuilding and as long as they seem to be following or attempting to rebuild, give them leeway in 6 month increments. if they appear to dragging their feet too much, don’t approve it till they give you a plan. This allows them time to recoup some of the money they may not ever get back from insurance and it provides businesses for tourist to patronize when visiting. One thing to consider is some businesses might have been teetering on profitability before Ian and considering either a change or to sell and this gives them a chance to try something different to see if its a better fit for when they rebuild or not.

  4. I agree with her.Its not fair to all the brick and mortar business who pay the huge taxes.We dont want the beach to look like a county fair.

  5. Very good Anita; I agree wholeheartedly. Mr. Persuad’s business before the hurricane was selling food through a restaurant, not weed. Question is – why didn’t he place a food truck in the space; I’ve eaten at Sunset Grill many times and loved the food and atmosphere.

  6. I oppose weed being sold in FMB but not so much the truck. I agree with most and am opposed to a tacky carnival atmosphere on or near the beach. But what if we require that a minimum amount of space surround each truck. For example; One truck must be centered in ¼ acre, or something like each truck must be separated from the nearest building or other food truck by 100 yards. Try to spread the tucks out so that there is a lot of space between them and other buildings.
    The point I am trying to make is that maybe service trucks can be the answer to a lower building density on the Island. Think about this; Wouldn’t it be nice to ride a bike along Estero Blvd. and be able to still see the Gulf of Mexico? Maybe low-density service trucks would be better to fill the vacant lots along Estero Blvd than building big, tall Highrise buildings with only small gaps between them. Now the bay side of Estero would be different. Here I would propose sticking to the original intent as the mayor outlined.
    Probably a bad idea but just something to think about.

  7. Enhanced food truck or mobile businesses are going to have to be accepted to some extent and if done right, is an attractive and wildly successful business. Doesn’t matter to me what Time Square does in their air conditioned space over flood, but the ground level needs to run similar to Sparkman Wharf in downtown Tampa where shipping containers were used to develop one of the coolest waterfront venues there is in the state.

  8. If the Town Council could modify the rules after the hurricane, why can’t they just better define them now? If an owner is actively pursuing a permanent structure, give them leeway. If not, then time limits to remove trailers. Should apply to homeowners also. Personally I don’t want trailers on my street for the next five years.

  9. If the emergency amendment is why this is allowed, why isn’t a timeframe in this amendment? How long are the permits good for that allow merchant trucks to operate on FMB? If there is no date, more trucks will appear and the area will have a permanent carnival atmosphere.

  10. If he followed the rules, I don’t see the issue. But the town does need to define how long they will allow this to go on. While this wasn’t Terry’s original business, it is still helping him recoup money lost to Ian.

  11. My opinion is that having food trucks or mobile vendors around during the reconstruction is helpful for residents and visitors. Having options for food and/or other items to purchase can help kickstart our tourism. Allow mobile business for 3-5 years while the town rebuilds.

  12. I am on the other side of this. If it is a legal business and they have done nothing wrong, then leave them be and stop trying to dictate what FMB “should” look like. It’s already a mess and Mville is a prime example of that. Talk about changing the Island. I still have such mixed feelings about M’ville. I know, I’m an off islander and my opinion and the dollars I spend on FMB mean nothing.

    • I agree LB. Times Square is a mess with no plans going forward. It looks like a flee market as it is so really any type business fits in.
      I also agree as I am an off islander too and feel that our dollars spent on FMB does not matter until the tourists leave then they want support from locals and of course our opinion never matters.

  13. Slippery slope here folks. If you really want to kill potential future business tell property and business owners they can only produce income if it’s an existing business before the hurricane. Feel like there’s some sort of a rights issue with that.

  14. I believe I heard that Bayside Estates near pine ridge rd is now making anyone with a camper in the park show that they have plans to bring in a new modular home. This might be something that we need to do on the island with our campers. I am in a camper on a neighbors lot while my house is being built. We are so thankful to them for letting us use it since they don’t know yet what they want to do. Our permit was issued yesterday to begin building. We signed with builder Nov 2022 so it can be a long process and our builder would not allow us to have camper on our lot while the building is being built.

    As far as businesses in food trucks go, I believe Anita and Dan are correct to only allow previous businesses to have trucks here to help them recoup losses from storm. Allowing non-previous businesses to have trucks is like allowing me to rent my property to a nonresident with a camper and if I could get $1000/month at minimum, why would I be in a rush to pay $600,000 to put up a new house.

    Food for thought!

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