Siesta Key will reconsider a rule barring merchants from displaying their products in outdoor displays, recognizing complaints from affected business owners who claim the recently stepped-up enforcement of the longstanding ban has negatively affected their bottom lines.
The Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA) and the Siesta Key Association (SKA) announced in meetings this month that they were researching possible changes to a provision of the Siesta Key Overlay District (SKOD) zoning code that bans outdoor merchandise displays.
“We are in a fact-finding stage to see what business owners are looking for and to find a reasonable, enforceable alternative,” said Kevin Cooper, executive director of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce. “I’m not sure if it exists, but we’re looking into it.”
The move is a response to Siesta merchants’ claims that the ban has hurt business, with some claiming up to a 90% loss in revenue after a crackdown on enforcing the zoning code began in April.
“I was one of the retailers that got nabbed,” said Rick Lizotte, who has owned Comfort Shoes in the Siesta Key Village for six years. “And, our business dropped dramatically — somewhere around 40%. As a retailer, we have to do something to get attention during business hours.”
The Siesta Key Overlay District (SKOD) is a set of zoning standards, approved in 2001, with the stated objectives of making the Key a more pedestrian-friendly community and maintaining the “village character of the Key,” by regulating the appearance of buildings, landscaping and other outdoor components. A key component of SKOD prohibits any type of outdoors merchandise display.
A new leadership cadre took over the SKVA earlier this year and decided to crack down on all of SKOD’s zoning codes to ensure they were uniformly enforced. Beginning in May, SKVA led a series of zoning-code workshops to ensure all Siesta business and property owners were familiar with the rules.
The zoning-code crackdown and subsequent workshops resulted in pushback from Key merchants.
“The new SKVA officers decided to level the playing field,” SKA board member Michael Shay said. “They said we should make everyone aware of what the ordinances are, and that’s when the problems began.”
Cooper added that amending the existing ordinance could be problematic if the new rules are not clear and leave open too much room for interpretation.
“We need to come up with something that is uniform and reasonably applies to all the different businesses on the Key,” Cooper said. “It needs to be clear what rules businesses need to abide by, without a lot of gray area. We don’t want something difficult to enforce.”
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