The Pasco County Commission is taking aim at businesses that sell vehicles, but don’t follow the county’s rules.
The county board held a public hearing on Feb. 22 to discuss a proposed six-month moratorium on the opening or establishment of new and used car, truck and van sales businesses.
The moratorium is not aimed at businesses that are playing by the county’s rules, Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey said. In fact, there are exceptions within the moratorium that protect those businesses.
The idea is to rein in businesses that have been opening without following the proper protocols, or doing business without regard to the county’s regulations.
The board is scheduled to hold a second and final public hearing on the issue and vote on the proposed ordinance at its March 8 meeting, in the Historic Pasco County Courthouse in Dade City.
During the 180-day pause, county staff will study the issues and to draft appropriate regulations to address concerns raised regarding these types of businesses.
In seeking action on the issue during past county board meetings, Starkey has specifically mentioned safety hazards posed by these types of businesses that are crowding too much inventory on their lots.
The county’s code enforcement department also has investigated various complaints relating to this issue.
No one from the public spoke in opposition of the potential moratorium.
Starkey said she’d heard from people in the vehicle sales industry and that a stakeholder meeting will be held.
“We will include both used car dealer representation and new car dealer representation,” Starkey said.
Commissioner Jack Mariano, however, raised some concerns.
“I know how this all started was the used car dealerships, up and down, especially on (U.S.) 19,” Mariano said.
He said he knows there are businesses that have defied the system and that has been an ongoing problem.
The focus should be on fixing that, Mariano said.
But he voiced doubts about the proposed moratorium.
“Right now, you’ve got one dealer, in particular, that’s got a $50 million investment scheduled to open,” Mariano said, noting he doesn’t want the county to do anything that could jeopardize that.
“You’re going to affect a business that brings tremendous tax base,” Mariano said.
Starkey said the proposed moratorium will not affect that dealer or any dealer that is playing by the county’s rules.
Mariano said he’s worried about the impact that the moratorium could have on the county’s image. He said it could create the impression that Pasco isn’t a good place to do business.
He noted that he’d been talking to people in the industry recently and, “everyone I’m talking to is afraid of what we’re doing here.
“The image that’s out here is putting us in a dangerous position,” Mariano said.
Starkey, however, said the moratorium is a good thing for businesses that are following the county’s regulations.
They’re put at a disadvantage she said, when they spend the money to abide by the county’s rules and their competitors don’t.
Senior Assistant County Attorney Elizabeth Blair said the proposed moratorium has an exception for “vehicle sale businesses that have an approved site plan and are operating in accordance with the approved site plan, and any county-approved amendments to that approved site plan.”
In essence, according to Blair, the moratorium “does not stop any good actor from operating their business, from opening their business, as long as they have an approved site plan, which is part of the process.”
“It was crafted in a way where only the bad actors are being stopped from going down the street and opening up a business that they shouldn’t be opening,” Blair added.
She also told Mariano that there’s no legal distinction between new and used inventory because the impacts of the dealership are the same, regardless of the status of the vehicle.
Published March 02, 2022
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