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Oops. Clearwater cites bike shop for city-owned bike rack

CLEARWATER — The city's violation letter used bold letters in all caps to describe The Path Bicycle and Ride Shop's alleged offense.

"INSTALLED SPIRAL BICYCLE RACK ON SIDEWALK WITHOUT PROPER PERMITS AND INSPECTIONS," it declared.

The Path owner Gary Keener was dumbfounded when his landlord forwarded him the notice last week. Because he didn't install the brand new bicycle rack on the sidewalk — The city did.

"I just thought it was pretty pathetic," said Keener, who has owned the Cleveland Street shop for six years. "We're kind of an anchor retail business that actually brings people to the downtown area. We go way back with how dumb code enforcement is."

On Dec. 4 the city blocked off a parking space on the 600 block of Cleveland Street, painted the asphalt blue, placed a red bag over the meter, and installed two spiral bike racks in the space. It was the exact setup the city installed in front of Tony's Pizza on the 400 block of Cleveland Street last year.

An anonymous tipster (apparently offended by bicycles) filed an online complaint with the city on Dec. 13, stating "these spiral racks are prohibited according to the City of Clearwater Code of Ordinances."

Inspector Sam Swinton checked it out and issued a violation on Dec. 19 to James Lampathakis, who owns the building that houses the bike shop.

Assistant Building Official Dana Root said Wednesday that the violation should never have been issued.

"It was a simple mistake," he said.

At the request of the city, Keener has since deleted a Facebook post he made last week mocking the mix-up. He said there are no hard feelings.

"I was kind of poking fun at how the ridiculous the city is and how they worry more about something really, really stupid compared to the homeless problem downtown or why it seems like the city of Clearwater doesn't want businesses to succeed downtown with all of their signage rules and regulations."

Keener said several years ago he bought fancy, custom made A-frame chalkboard signs to advertise his specials and welcome customers. It turned out to be a code violation to place it on the curb where the public can see, so he gave up that effort.

But businesses are safe from false bike rack accusations for now. There are no more racks planned for downtown anytime soon, Assistant City Manager Micah Maxwell confirmed.

Contact Tracey McManus at tmcmanus@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.

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