A produce stand in Lutz that has been a gathering place for events and food truck rallies has been ordered by the Hillsborough County Code Enforcement Board to come into compliance with county codes, or face stiff fines.
Ron Anderson, the official agent for the owner of the property, CA Properties Inc., and Michelle Gilbert, an attorney for the tenant, County Line Produce, both came before the Hillsborough County Code Enforcement Board on Aug. 28 to respond to allegations of code violations.
Hillsborough County Code Enforcement Officer Rick Garcia explained the nature of the alleged violations to the code enforcement board.
“The property (at 206 Newberger Road) is zoned ASC-1, and they’re operating as essentially a retail business/grocery store, as opposed to what’s allowed for a produce stand. They’re also holding food truck rallies, special events on different weekends of the month,” Garcia said.
“They continue to operate in this capacity and continue to hold events. They originally purchased the property and were in the belief that these activities were permitted because the building had been there previously and used for a similar purpose,” Garcia said.
“I’ve been in constant contact with the proprietor, with the property owner/agent and with the attorney representing the produce stand,” Garcia said.
Gilbert, appearing on behalf of County Line Produce, told board members: “the tenant leased this with the representation that the property could be used for the use they’re doing right now.
“They are requesting additional time to work with the owner, who is represented today, to bring the property into compliance,” she said. “Again, the tenant is at the mercy of the owner, to bring the property into compliance.”
But, Anderson said he “was under the impression that the tenant was hiring the attorney to see about getting a zoning variance so they can operate — evidently outside of the lease, that I have with them.
“They leased the property to grow produce. I have a copy of the current lease, and it says, ‘Use of the premise is to grow produce — vegetables and fruit, and sell them. It doesn’t say anything about all of the other things they’re trying to sell, in relation to a grocery store.
“If they want to do that, they need to get a variance on the zoning. I told them that I would be very cooperative, to help them, with any type of — whatever they had to do to satisfy the zoning regulations, so that they could operate and even operate outside the guidelines of the lease.
“I’m trying to work with them, and help them,” Anderson said.
But, he continued: “The lease clearly states that they can’t cause me to have zoning violations and not be responsible. They’re responsible. I just want them to fix the problem. Do whatever we got to do to solve the problem.”
Gilbert said she plans to submit an application for a conditional use within a couple of weeks.
“Our position is that now, being aware of this problem, where it was misrepresented at the time of leasing, we certainly want to comply and apply appropriately for conditional use and you know, do what we need to do to work with that owner,” she said.
“But again, being very clear, that at the beginning of the lease, it was leased understanding how my client wanted to use the premises, and the reassurances were made that that would be fine,” Gilbert added.
The board found that the property is in violation of Hillsborough County codes, citing both the owner and tenant, and ordered them to come into compliance within 60 days, or face a $250 a day fine.
The board also heard a second case involving a citation against CA Properties Inc., for a property it owns at 19323 N. U.S. 41 in Lutz.
Garcia said the property is south of the produce stand and has been used, in violation of county code, for overflow parking from events at the produce stand. He said as many as 100 cars have been seen on the lot.
Garcia said the property is zoned ASC-1, and is supposed to be used for pastureland.
He explained that only CA Properties was cited in this case because the produce stand doesn’t have any legal attachment to the lot.
Anderson told the code enforcement board: “The tenant is the responsible party that has caused the violation, and in the lease they’re ultimately responsible.
“I wrote them a letter and told them you have to get permits. I sent Mr. Garcia a copy of the letter. I’m trying to be completely in compliance,” Anderson said.
The board found that CA Properties violated the county’s codes — because of the parking on the lot — and gave the company seven days to come into compliance, or face a fine of $350 per day.
Published September 02, 2020