Groves Council Starts Over On Home Business Ordinance

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council scrapped an ordinance Tuesday that would have changed the town’s Unified Land Development Code to allow residential enterprises as a conditional use, opting instead to look into other alternatives.

The council and town staff had spent about eight months specifically trying to craft an ordinance that would enable a local licensed gun dealer to do business from his home, which he had done before the town incorporated.

The ordinance would have amended the ULDC to allow residential enterprises on properties of 5 acres or more with as many as three customers on the premises at any given time.

The council had approved a preliminary reading of the ordinance, but the town’s Unified Land Development Review Committee and Planning & Zoning Board both had recommended denial.

Councilman Jim Rockett said he would prefer that the number of customers be reduced to three customers per day. “I would really make it a restricted operation. I think it would eliminate the possibilities of us opening up to retail business throughout the communities,” he said, adding that the ordinance would enable resident Bill Kline to continue to conduct his limited operation selling guns.

Councilman Ron Jarriel pointed out that the advisory boards both recommended denial of the ordinance. He said he had researched how other rural communities regulate home-based businesses.

“This should not be called ‘residential enterprise,’” Jarriel said, explaining that the town also has a “home occupation” classification.

Jarriel said he agreed with some of the advisory board members that the ordinance could open a can of worms under “residential enterprise.”

“I did some research because I got tired of waiting, because this has been going on for seven or eight months,” Jarriel said. “Bill Kline knows I’ve probably fought for him more than anyone else on this council, and we all agree that he deserves to sell his guns.”

Jarriel said he had talked for several hours to representatives from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, which had stopped Kline’s operation.

“After I talked to them, they understood the whole situation a little bit better,” Jarriel said. “When I first started talking to the ATF, they were telling me, ‘You’ve got too many licensed gun dealers in Loxahatchee.’ I told them, ‘No, we’ve only got one.’”

ATF told him there were 10 licensed gun dealers in “Loxahatchee,” but nine turned out to actually be in The Acreage.

“I had them read me the addresses,” Jarriel said. “In The Acreage, they’ve got acre-and-a-quarter lots. I would not want a licensed gun dealer to be my neighbor. It’s too dangerous, too many people involved, with traffic coming in.”

He said ATF had had problems with dealers in The Acreage, who are authorized to sell only on the Internet but had been selling out of their homes.

Jarriel added that the City of Port St. Lucie and Highlands County had regulations that the town might find worthwhile to use as models.

“They basically allow gun sales,” he said. “The person who is doing it has to do it within his home. He can’t do it in his carport; he can’t do it in his garage. They feel that when it has to be specified in his living area, that you won’t have an auto shop doing business in the living room.”

In Highlands County, the only person allowed to conduct such an operation is a resident who owns the home as a homestead, and the home occupation must be incidental or subordinate to its use as a residence. There must be no evidence of home occupation on the outside of the home other than a name plate no more than 1 square foot.

“Bill Kline, I’ve known him for over 20 years, and I never knew he was a licensed gun dealer until he had a problem with the ATF.” Jarriel said.

He added that the City of Port St. Lucie allows two customer visits per day.

“I believe if we went along with Highlands County and the City of Port St. Lucie, and we went back to our boards, I believe that we would get a 5-0 vote and they would agree with this,” Jarriel said. “It’s just a common-sense approach, and it would work well.”

Town Attorney Michael Cirullo said that a new or revised ordinance would have to go through the entire process again with completion in January if the town aggressively pursues it.

Councilman Tom Goltzené said he would be willing to go along with the change as long as it does not restrict existing home enterprises.

Mayor Dave Browning said he would rather have an ordinance that meets with the approval of the advisory committees.

Planning & Zoning Board Chairman Dennis Lipp said he liked Jarriel’s recommendations. “‘Home occupation’ would be simple to put in what Mr. Jarriel recommended, incidental to the home and not to exceed normal traffic,” Lipp said. “With language like that, it will glide right through.”

Lipp added that changing the residential enterprise designation to allow customers would invite abuse.

“We all know that if the folks here in Loxahatchee Groves see a little bitty opening in a door, pretty soon we have a barn door and we have trucks,” he said.

Rockett made a motion to approve the ordinance at hand, but it was voted down 5-0.