Outside Merchandise Ordinance up for review

By Raquel Garcia….

Mark Jane Mark, owner of Mack Cycle, stands outside her Sunset Drive location among the outside merchandise displays the city will review.

Whether or not local businesses should sell or display promotional signage or merchandise on private property used by the public appears to be the crux of amending a South Miami ordinance at the next City Commission meeting.

Discussed around the conference rooms of City Hall since 2008, its provisions can adversely effect businesses like Mack Cycle on Sunset Drive, according to Mary Jane Mark, store owner.

The existing ordinance stating “conducting business outside a building” conflicts with the City’s long standing policy that such business activities can only be conducted inside a building unless specifically allowed as a permitted use.

Requirements under the existing ordinance to permit outdoor sales at Mack Cycle are at issue, complicated by its pending amendment.

As a local merchant attracting shoppers to the area since its opening 57 years ago, Ms. Mark and staff say they are befuddled with the city’s attempts to regulate how they conduct the business which has received citations for “conducting business outside of a business,” specifically erection of signage or merchandise displays outside the place of business itself.

“We’ve been here longer than many of the administrators and our business concerns should be an interest to the city and not a detriment” said Ms. Mark.

“Micromanagement of area businesses should not be the focus but rather bringing the community and humanity together.”

John Edward Smith, a consultant for Mack Cycle and commuter enthusiasts, said the original ordinance came about because residents were complaining about a boot camp-styled exercise program conducted on the sidewalk and adjoining streets.

“The original intent was not about sidewalk sales or anything to do with that,” stated Smith. “When former City Manager Roger Carlton came on board a few years ago, he took exception to the way that Mack Cycle was being displayed. His perception was that it did not look good, he didn’t want it, and challenged the code enforcement director to review that ordinance to see if it might apply.”

Although calls made to the city manager and city clerk’s office for comment and confirmation were not returned, area residents confirm that the ordinance resulted over a decade ago after a complaint was lodged about boot campers exercising in public business spaces.

“We foresaw there would be issues so we made a pre-emptive move to avoid potential problems,” said Ed Delatorre, owner of Ed’s Boot Camp about the ordinance. His camp activities formerly held as an outdoor class in the courtyard of First National Bank of South Miami, are now located at the South Miami Community Center.

For over 20 years, Delatorre said he has inspired exercisers who prefer to work out in the fresh air rather than being cooped up in a gym.

“So long as the program isn’t interfering with traffic and is a moving class, there should be nothing wrong with that,” he explained. “This is a good, safe program for the community, not to become a nuisance but rather an added benefit to living in South Miami.”

Ed’s Boot Camp has never been fined for any violations related to the ordinance, nor has Allan Borrajero, owner of Benny & Allan’s Auto Repair at 5831 SW 70 Street where work-in-progress vehicles are often parked outdoors on the street.

Other businesses on Progress and Commerce Lane may be affected although it is not known if they have been fined for violations. Exemptions for auto maintenance garages have been part of ongoing discussions. Farm Stores, Winn Dixie and other businesses frequently display merchandise and signs outside private business property that face public access areas, apparently without incident, although confirmation of that was unavailable by a City Hall spokesperson at publication deadline.

When Ms. Mark went to City Hall to obtain the permit requested, there was no permit to obtain. She said she has spent many long hours at City Commission and Planning Board meetings and code enforcement reviews without any resolution of what she believes is an arbitrary nature of the ordinance.

“The Planning Department has spent hours trying to craft a new ordinance that would encompass everyone, including the random mattress salesman down the road, but they cannot cover every scenario,” she declared.

“It is a waste of time and should be scrapped altogether,” she continued. “Mack Cycle is a good citizen of South Miami, we do not disrespect laws, we try to be involved and supportive of efforts of the city but we are absolutely baffled by the interest of the city specifically in Mack Cycle.”

City Hall officials will address the noconducting- business-outside-of-a-business ordinance at its next regular Tuesday night meeting when it comes up for first reading. That action could be postponed if a voting quorum is unavailable.

For information on how area businesses may be affected by the ordinance, contact the City Clerk’s Office at 305-663-6340.

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1 Comment on "Outside Merchandise Ordinance up for review"

  1. Donna Shelley | May 25, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Reply

    Something designed to punish one business. Why? Winn Dixie has lots out front, including their shopping carts–so why pick on Mack Cycle?

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