Council Unhappily Reverses 2 Fee Increases

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Byline: Mary Maraghy, County Line staff writer

Because of a legal threat and an oversight, the Orange Park Town Council backtracked on some past legislation Tuesday night, to the chagrin of a couple of council members and the planning and zoning board.

"We are back to square one. We haven't accomplished anything," said Eugene Nix of the town's planning and zoning board.

A few months ago, the council passed two ordinances that called for higher fees for transient merchants and developers seeking rezoning applications in hopes of increasing town revenue.

Transient merchants are temporary vendors who set up shop in parking lots on weekends to sell cars, tools and other things. The fee was raised to $250 from $50. But after the ordinance was passed, an attorney for a tool vendor wrote the town attorney and said the fees were unfair, inconsistent and discriminatory. Town attorney Rob Bradley recommended the council reduce the fee back to $50 as a result of the legal threat.

"I hate the fact that we are responding to a legal threat and that we are backed in to a corner," said Councilwoman Phyllis Renninger. "But we have to do this."

On Tuesday night, the council gave final approval to a new ordinance putting the fee back to $50.

"It's against my nature to do things at the point of a bayonet," Bradley said. "But this is a legitimate threat. I feel we are vulnerable."

Mayor Steve Jones said all was not lost because transient merchants still must fill out an application so the town is able to keep a record of who does what where. In the past, there was no record at all, Jones said. …