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Law change sparks ‘sexually oriented business’ fears

A proposed amendment changing what businesses can be operated out of people’s homes ended with Winter Springs’ mayor suggesting that cities will band together to fight the state legislature.

In a discussion that brought up the rarely mentioned “pleasure dome” that at one point operated out of a house in Winter Springs, commissioners, during a Dec. 13 meeting, spoke warily of state statute 599.955, passed by the Florida Legislature this year, removing some city control over what businesses can operate out of homes. The new statute required cities to change or remove their own home business regulating ordinances to be in compliance with the state.

“This is one of the most controversial ‘jam-downs’ … that I think we’ve seen in a long time,” Mayor Kevin McCann said.

The main issue that commissioners had with the statute (and the new city ordinance to comply with it) was that it would require the city to remove its list of prohibited home-based businesses.

That would include home businesses currently banned by the city such as adult entertainment, escort services, funeral homes, pain management clinics and “sexually oriented businesses.”

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“Do we have corollary existing ordinances prohibiting them in a residential area before we strike all these out and have tattoo parlors and massage parlors and sexually oriented businesses and studios and, you know, porno whatever, in residential neighborhoods?” Commissioner Kevin Cannon asked.

“The Legislature, not only did it not do a very good job of defining home-based businesses, it didn’t define them at all,” City Attorney Anthony Garganese said. “There’s no definition. It’s very broad.”

“I think the question now becomes, unfortunately, when somebody wants to engage in a business in a home, does it comply with this statute? And if it does, the type of business doesn’t really matter,” Garganese said.

The new law could potentially allow businesses in homes that are restricted in Winter Springs’ commercial areas.

“So if a parcel is zoned commercial, we can control whether it’s an adult business, but if it’s zoned residential, we can’t?” Commissioner Rob Elliott asked. “That is insane.”

“The practical effect if we were to adopt this tonight is to make an absolute nightmare,” Cannon said. “I will personally sit down with our state senator. I will personally sit down with our state representative…and show them the practical real-world ramifications.”

The ramifications for cities with high residential percentages could be significant, McCann said, noting that Winter Springs is 90% residentially zoned, compared to nearby Lake Mary, which has mostly commercial zoning.

“Those [cities] that have very high residential percentages like us, we’re going to rise to the top and we’re going to be the ones that are fighting this,” McCann said.

“I would encourage the city to file a legal declaratory judgment challenge on this in Tallahassee, and get some of the other cities behind us with it, or find another city or two that have already filed a legal challenge,” Cannon said. “But this is insanity, to have people opening up barber shops or auto service (in their homes).”

When asked whether other cities had objected to passing ordinances to comply with the new state statute, Garganese said, “We’re definitely not the lone wolf.”

“Enough is enough,” Cannon said. “There is no way that I think we should cave on this.”

The Commission voted unanimously to postpone the vote to give the city attorney and staff time to research the city’s legal options.

Upon being asked if there’s a deadline to take action on the legislation, Garganese said there is none.

“But the legislature’s law is now the law of the land,” he added.

Winter Springs’ new deputy mayor

As the City Commission meeting pushed toward midnight Dec. 13, the Commission voted for a new deputy mayor, a role that had been held for a one-year term by Ted Johnson.

“No matter what you say I am not going to be your deputy mayor,” Johnson said jokingly. “But I do nominate Kevin Cannon to be our deputy mayor for 2022.”

Commissioner TiAnna Hale then asked if she was allowed to nominate herself.

“Then I would like to nominate myself,” Hale said. “I’m ready.”

In a 3-2 vote, with Elliott and Hale dissenting, Cannon became the city’s new deputy mayor, who will preside over meetings and events in the mayor’s absence.

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