food truck

Homestead City Council met on Wednesday May 18, deferring the new City signage pilot program, and approving a grant application for the new Sports Complex Park.

In January, Council directed City staff to assess food truck rules. Florida statutes, County rules, and local administrative practices were examined to produce a detailed Ordinance draft on “mobile food dispensing vehicles” (MFDV) for Council’s direction.

Councilmember Julio Guzman’s concern was allowing food trucks to congregate on vacant property in the City. “I’m interested in a food truck venue as an alternate location for specialized food,” he said. Guzman added usage should be confined to commercial, developmental, or mixed use property but not permitted on residential property.

City Attorney James White said Council legally could not prohibit MFDVs under state law but could regulate them. The City could not charge fees or require special licensure but could inspect for fire code issues and verify a County certificate of use. The Attorney had legal issues with the County’s certificate but thought those could be worked around.

Basic issues identified for regulation were disability access (ADA rules), bathrooms, and parking and traffic rules. Insurance, risk and indemnification considerations could be handled through document inspection under the Code, the Attorney said.

Councilmember Erica Avila summarized the problem as rules for permanent site locations, transient site locations, and special events. The Attorney agreed but said the rules would be a mash-up of those categories.

“The problem is there is no guidance right now,” Attorney White said. “The planning department gets several questions a month on what is allowed.”

Councilmember Sean Fletcher said clearly the issue needed a Council workshop to discuss any detailed rules for food trucks.

Councilmember Larry Roth agreed because of multiple layers for decision.

“For trucks that park and remain, are we opening the door for other vendors?” Mayor Steve Losner asked. “We don’t mean the pop-up tents that sell flowers or crafts. The CRA’s business incentive program is helping brick and mortar restaurants – does this put them at an economic disadvantage?”

Councilmember Avila recognized the problem but thought competition bred innovation and more opportunity for local business.

After his presentation and Council discussion, Attorney White said it appeared the consensus was to defer the issue and schedule a workshop.

Councilmember Guzman asked if the next scheduled workshop could add food trucks to its agenda.

City Manager Jerry Estrada said the Krome Avenue corridor workshop was planned next but a workshop on the special Southwest Neighborhood plans was also scheduled.

Two monumental issues,” the Mayor said, agreeing to add the food truck discussion to a workshop agenda.

On land use issues, Council quickly approved the final plat for Copart of Connecticut’s vehicle storage facility on 38 acres in the Park of Commerce and another final plat for the company’s additional 59.36 acres. Final votes were six to one, Losner voting no.

Two five acre parcels along North Canal Drive at the Park of Commerce were rezoned from agricultural to light industrial for future use.

Councilmember Guzman raised the issue of two vacant lots next to the Community Center on Krome and 17th Streets. A 1977 zoning change to B1A (such as professional offices) did not also amend the City comprehensive plan on the eastern lot to comply. The office building occupying the premises was demolished after Hurricane Andrew.

The City Attorney agreed comprehensive planning and zoning must match but that it was the applicant’s responsibility to pay for it.

Mayor Losner said if the issue were just those two lots, Council’s decision could amount to spot zoning, causing legal problems. He suggested reviewing all such inconsistencies in a pilot program stretching from Northwest Fourth Street to the City limits, bordered by one block on each side of Krome Avenue. He asked City staff to estimate the cost procedurally to correct those problems and then City staff could approach the property owners for their agreement. Council consensus was in agreement with that suggestion.

In other business, Council agreed to a prospective contract with the Department of Corrections for a five inmate crew to supplement City trash and janitorial work. Cost of a three year contract would be $172,491. Before COVID made guards unavailable, the City used to employ five such five-member crews. Council approved the proposal.

Council voted to join an opioid lawsuit participation agreement for proposed settlement with CVS, TEVA and Allergan.

Mayor Losner sponsored a resolution identifying out-of-date police equipment to declare as surplus that would then be donated to the Foundation for Human Rights to be shipped to the Ukraine to help resist the Russian invasion. Equipment included helmets, protection vests, medical trauma supplies, gauze, analgesics, air tanks, masks, and other medical safety materials. Council approved the measure unanimously.

Councilmember Avila hosted a presentation by FIU that is offering free vocational training in construction and apprentice certification at five locations including one in Homestead. The twice-a-week program for six months is paid for with federal and state funding. Contact RLAROSA@FIU.EDU for application information.

Councilmember Guzman asked about formation of Homestead’s Tourism Advisory Committee.

Mayor Losner deemed that premature. “Until there is something to show, with Losner Park months behind and empty storefronts downtown, there’s no need for a true committee,” the Mayor said. “It’s not a good first impression.”

“I’m also not ready to appoint a committee that has unbridled discretion over promoting Homestead until Council agrees with it,” the Mayor added.

City Attorney Matthew Pearl was asked to read the advisory committee’s charter mission, including promoting Homestead as a destination, exploring tourism opportunities, looked for grants and other funding, promoting environment stewardship efforts, and providing a forum for business and citizens to discuss tourism issues. Staff told Council the committee had a $10,000 budget.

After Council discussion, the Mayor said he expected to have a full slate of committee nominees by next month’s Council meeting.

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