Residents to sound off on mobile businesses ordinance

Commissioner says ordinance is about responsibility, not price

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. - Clay County residents will sound off Tuesday on a controversial ordinance that would limit mobile businesses in the county, including a popular mobile pet clinic.

The Board of Commissioners is considering an ordinance to cut the days and hours those businesses can set up.

The move comes after complaints from traditional vets who say the mobile clinic has an unfair advantage, although many residents say they depend on the mobile clinic for low-cost care.

A vote could come Tuesday, but Commissioner Wendell Davis, who asked for a group to look into mobile businesses, said there will likely not be. He said this meeting will be about hearing from the public and other commissioners.

Ron and Karen Meade said they'll be speaking out to keep the mobile clinic. They've been taking their dogs Charlie and Roxie to Pet Shots Mobile Clinic in Clay County for the last three years. They switched from their traditional vet because of lower prices.

"We can't really afford to pay the higher prices," Ron said. "We're on a fixed income. Our income doesn't go up, it just stays the same."

"We're obviously retired, like a lot of folks, and the higher cost of everything is beginning to encroach upon us," Karen said.

While the shot prices at Pet Shots and other traditional clinics are about the same, the mobile clinic doesn't charge for the visit and exam, which can tack on anywhere from $20 to $40.

Davis said the proposed ordinance isn't about price but responsibility.

"They've operated laissez faire. They've operated with no rules, no regulations, nobody checking on them," Davis said. "It'd be like living in your house, the front door and the back door are unlocked and people are able to come and travel in and through your house and you not know it."

Pet Shots is licensed by the state, but Davis believes there needs to be county regulation as well. He said the ordinance isn't about the business not paying property taxes and fees, an issue traditional veterinarians have raised.

"You have a permit, you know you're there, you're authorized to be there," Davis said. "So when a citizen complains, you know what they're talking about, you know who, what, when, where, and then you can either assist or or add information to the state."

Under the proposed ordinance, mobile business in unincorporated areas would be required to get a county permit, pay an application fee, provide proof of at least $500,000 in liability insurance, be at least 1,500 feet away from a similar local business, and have written permission from the property owner or manager.

Mobile businesses would be limited to four permits a year. Each permit would limit the business operations to a maximum of four hours.

"I think it's a good beginning, it's a good draft, it's a good start," Davis said. "I think that there's certainly likely to be some changes made."

The Meades and other supporters, as well and many local veterinarians, are planning to be at Tuesday's meeting, which starts at 2 p.m.

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