Vero council to hear local vendor preference, restaurant ordinance

VERO BEACH — During a nearly four-hour meeting that included bickering over time limits on council members’ matters, the Vero Beach City Council managed to vote to place two proposed business-related ordinances on upcoming agendas for public hearing.

The first measure, modeled after an Indian River County ordinance, would allow the city to give preference to vendors from Indian River or adjacent counties as part of the bidding process to provide goods or services to the city. The Purchasing Department already has that latitude, but Mayor Kevin Sawnick and Councilman Ken Daige said they wanted to have a policy put in writing to be consistent with other neighboring jurisdictions.That ordinance will be heard at the next regular meeting on April 20.

Daige had pushed the issue forward. As a local, small business owner himself, he said the impetus for him was to encourage local businesses in need of work and revenue to submit bids with the city, with the expectation that they would have a better chance of getting the job under a more business-friendly ordinance.

Councilman Brian Heady voted against putting the item to a public hearing because he felt it was unnecessary.

“There already exists on the books the ability to give preference to a local bidder, they turned two paragraphs into five pages,” Heady said, adding that the ordinance actually limits the city’s leeway in giving local vendors a break and also requires vendors to go through extra red tape to become registered local vendors, actually making it more difficult for some firms to qualify.

The second matter, which will not come up for public hearing until May 4, is an ordinance to bring the city into compliance with Florida Statute by allowing restaurants which count at least 51 percent of their sales from food the zoning permission to serve beer and wine, despite their location 500 feet or less from a school or church. Community Development Director Tim McGarry said the issue arose after it was brought to his attention by two or three restaurant owner who were limited by the city’s existing ordinance. He said the city is currently out of step because the provision exists in Florida Statute, but no one has yet to take the city to task on being more restrictive than state regulations.

Heady, again the lone dissenter, voted against putting the matter to a public hearing, despite the fact that he said he supports local restaurants being able to serve a beer or glass of wine with a meal.

“I voted against it because it’s 10 pages of legalese saying that we must comply with the state law,” Heady said after the meeting. “We don’t need 10 pages to say we need to comply with state law, that’s law school 101, there’s no question that we need to absolutely be in compliance with state law. Why do we need the staff to be working on these things that we don’t need?”

Councilman Tom White had some concerns about restaurants serving alcohol that close to a school during the hours when students would be in school. He asked McGarry to look into what could be done to restrict the hours of alcohol service for establishments that would be granted a permit, should the ordinance pass. Yet, White voted in favor of placing the matter on the agenda for public hearing.

Vice Mayor Sabe Abell was absent from the meeting. An item that he requested the council take up — a controversial 10-minute time limit on council members’ matters — was tabled until the next meeting when Abell could be present. Heady and members of the public spoke out against the time limit, but Mayor Kevin Sawnick said he had heard from many city residents around town who desire greater productivity and efficiency in public meetings.

“I’m just trying to get the best out of each council member,” Sawnick said.

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