DUNEDIN — The small businessman who has asked the city of Dunedin for six months whether he could install an ice vending machine along the way to Honeymoon Island finally has his answer.
It's been a long journey for Richard Corley, who first filed with the city for a "minor change" to allow him his machine in April. He planned to install the automated kiosk on three parking spaces in the Dunedin Causeway Center Shopping Plaza, selling 20 pounds of ice for $1.50, and had his paperwork-lined route through the city's bureaucratic building process reported on Aug. 8 in the St. Petersburg Times.
Corley said he complied with every suggested change, from palm placement to mansard roof color, leading the Planning and Development Department to approve of the change. But that still wasn't enough on Thursday for the City Commission.
Mayor Dave Eggers didn't like the parking lot, citing unclear signage and safety issues. Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski didn't like the wording of "minor change," suggesting it constituted an entirely new business. Commissioner Ron Barnette didn't like the big penguin on the side, calling the machine "hideous." Commissioners voted it down, 4-1.
Corley said he felt guilty by association, as the bulk of city complaints were aimed at the shopping center's disrepair. Plaza owner Vijay Walvekar asked commissioners to "please bear with" him as he attempted to paint and remodel in the face of site vacancies and low revenue.
But commissioners said that approving any new business, including an ice machine, at the plaza that has long needed an upgrade would be the wrong signal to send the owner.
"We need to get that center, in my opinion, up to speed and make it more welcoming to the neighborhood," Eggers told Walvekar. "We don't want to give you a lot more development rights unless you" repair the plaza.
The rejection of the ice machine was especially disappointing, Corley said, because of the ease of development he has found in other cities. With the same plan, and the same machine, he said he started a similar building process in Tarpon Springs a month ago. That machine will be delivered this week.
"This was kind of our way of trying to get some income, get a little business going and, also, it would have been a big plus for the people of Dunedin," Corley said. "I think for me, as a business owner, a little small guy, not a big guy, it was pretty crappy the way this was done. Why waste my time?"
Drew Harwell can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4170.