Groves Council Divided On Residential Hay Sale Rules

In a 3-2 decision Tuesday, the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council gave preliminary approval to an ordinance that would amend the town’s Unified Land Development Code to regulate the sale of hay and other agricultural products on residential property.

Final approval to change the ULDC would require at least a 4-1 vote.

The amendment arose out of code enforcement citations given to several residents alleging that they were selling hay without proper approval.

Residents Gerald and Janet Eick, who have engaged in hay sales for many years, were among those cited. They hired an attorney to represent them at a special magistrate hearing, and in June 2012 asked the council for relief.

In the meantime, council members suspended further enforcement until they could address the issue.

The first hearing of the ordinance was held Dec. 4, but was postponed so Councilman Tom Goltzené could propose changes to the ordinance.

Planning consultant Jim Fleischmann said the issue arose out of four code enforcement complaints, and the council directed staff to offer measures to remedy the problem.

The proposed amendment would allow limited sales of hay and other related products throughout the town.

Under the proposal, the operations would be limited to property owners, and vested with residents and not the land, Fleischmann said. Sellers also would need to have a business tax receipt; hay sales must be an accessory use to the principal, residential use; and businesses that use truck trailers and semis for delivery would have to receive special exception approval from the council.

Goltzené objected to that form of approval for deliveries by semis and trailers. “It makes everything more complicated with a special exception,” he said.

Fleischmann said it was included because the trucks would often be crossing culverts. “We just want to make sure that products can be safely delivered,” he said.

“I think that’s excessive on the part of the town,” Goltzené said. “Semis go back and forth to nurseries and other agricultural venues. I don’t think we need to get into that.”

Councilman Ron Jarriel agreed. “I don’t think we need to baby-sit truck drivers who have been doing it for years,” he said.

Goltzené made a motion to remove that provision, which carried 5-0.

Goltzené also objected to a provision setting a maximum of two non-residential employees to help with unloading. “Often you use more than two people to help unload a trailer,” he said. “I don’t see a public purpose. I really think this is a lot of government intrusion. We started out trying to facilitate something, and now we’re trying to tweak every little part of how people do their business.”

Jarriel agreed. “Right now, a lot of people are looking for work out there,” he said. “There’s a lot of high school kids who work for these mom-and-pop businesses. To tell people they can’t work there because they are limited, we don’t need stuff like that.”

Fleischmann said the provision had been included to be consistent with other residential accessory uses. Town Manager Mark Kutney said allowing more employees strays from the idea of a mom-and-pop use.

Goltzené said hay sales and operations should not be compared with other accessory uses. “We’re talking about unloading a trailer for an hour and a half,” he said. “I don’t understand why we would be against people employing people.”

Such special exceptions make things unnecessarily complicated, Goltzené said.

“I don’t understand the nitpicking,” he said. “I think it’s what causes resentment to government, especially to this town because people just want to do their job… and this is really ridiculous.”

Goltzené made a motion to delete that provision, which also carried 5-0.

The ordinance would allow one sign of a maximum 12 square feet, primarily to advertise hours of operation, Fleischmann said.

After discussion, the council set maximum hours of operation as 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Resident Howard Voren said he thought the ordinance was inappropriate in light of plans to hold a forum on changes to the ULDC.

“This whole thing is poorly thought out and is wrong right out of the gate,” Voren said. “What we all wanted to do, and what we all agreed to, was to keep existing businesses that had been operating prior to incorporation and find a way to allow them all to stay here.”

Voren said it should not be handled through piecemeal ordinances. “You need to handle them all at once so we don’t have to spend thousands of dollars writing ordinances for each individual mom-and-pop operation,” he said.

Jarriel said the council was trying to give hay sellers immediate relief while they study the ULDC more carefully. “This needs to be taken care of now, and we need to get it off our plate,” he said.

Jarriel made a motion to give preliminary approval with the changes recommended, which carried 3-2 with Goltzené and Mayor Dave Browning opposed.

Browning said he voted against the ordinance because he thought it should go to the ULDC committee.

In other business:

• Kutney said a new petition had been filed Jan. 7 to bring about a referendum reversing the council’s decision approving Palm Beach State College’s plans to build a fifth campus on Southern Blvd. The original petition had lost the required number of committee members.

Attorney Michael Cirullo said the new petition is on the same subject that was filed in the initial petition from November 2012.

“It raises the same legal concerns that were outlined earlier,” Cirullo said. “The college is aware of this petition. They had sent a letter with the initial documentation back in November outlining their concerns about the petition. Nothing is different today than there was in November except the council did take action in adopting a resolution putting its position on this subject on the record.”

Cirullo said there is a similar circuit court case originating from Boca Raton regarding a state law that would permit a referendum on that type of issue if a successful petition is filed. An appeal has been filed by the city and the developer there, and that decision would be binding on the town, Cirullo said.

• In a 3-2 decision, the council also approved a motion to draft an ordinance that would pay future council members $500 a month. Council compensation is provided for in the town charter, but final approval would require at least a 4-1 vote.