CLEARWATER — City zoning rules have blocked Richard Kendler, the Dunedin man who last week lost his longtime management contract for that city's Green Market, from launching a new venture in Clearwater.
For weeks, Kendler had been advertising the Nov. 10 opening of an open-air Sunday market on Countryside High School's parking lot. Pinellas County school officials had said a portion of proceeds from the weekly market, set to run through mid May, would be donated to the school.
However, confusion arose this week after city officials caught wind of the plan and informed both Kendler and the school district that farmer's markets run afoul of city code, which forbids "itinerant sales" on private property except in short-term cases (such as for Christmas tree or pumpkin sales).
Officials acknowledge that internal miscommunication may have led Kendler to believe he had the city's permission. But City Manager Bill Horne ultimately said that code enforcement would cite the market if it opened.
"We'd have to change code to allow for those sales," said city spokeswoman Joelle Castelli. "We are in the process right now of going back to the School Board and reiterating that (the market) is not allowed to happen on that property."
The news comes less than a week after Dunedin city commissioners approved a city committee's recommendation to hire Tampa Bay Markets to manage the city's Green Market instead of Kendler, its founder and longtime manager.
Commissioners said Kendler had done a good job so far, but his competitor offered concrete plans for growth and three times more rent.
At the time, Kendler said he had been planning the Countryside market since about August. He declined to comment for this story.
The school district confirmed Friday that Kendler had signed a lease, which states that the holder must meet any governmental requirements in its location.
According to Castelli, in September Kendler spoke with Clearwater planning director Michael Delk, who told him "no."
Subsequently, city special events committee chairman Christopher Hubbard told Kendler he didn't need a special events permit and indicated he had city support. However, both Castelli and Hubbard say zoning laws supersede special events decisions.
"It's possible that (Kendler) left that communication thinking it was okay," Castelli said. "But it still has to be approved through zoning."
The city already hosts the Downtown Clearwater Farmer's Market, which is aimed at boosting local tourism, under a provision that allows long-term itinerant sales for city co-sponsored special events. Officials recently halted the Gateway Farmer's Market on Cleveland Street — possibly permanently — amid complaints from nearby merchants that market visitors took their parking spaces and frustrated regular customers.
Horne said city administrators have declined to dedicate resources toward a partnership with Kendler's Countryside Community Market.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or email@example.com. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.