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New Fla. Law on Residential Businesses May Be Tweaked

A pro-business law that allows residential owners to operate businesses out of their home may get clarification after an early applicant proposed an ammo-supply shop.

LAUDERDALE LAKES, Fla. – A Florida law that encourages people to run businesses from home is drawing fear of what could open right next door in neighborhoods – maybe an ammo supply shop, a strip club or more.

It remains to be seen how many home-based businesses have opened as a result of the recently enacted law, House Bill 403, in Florida. But one of the first instances to amplify concern came when the owner of Popping Smoke Ammunition filed paperwork to start up his ammunition-supply company from his two-bedroom home in Lauderdale Lakes. That sent frantic officials pleading for help from Tallahassee lawmakers.

Lauderdale Lakes city officials say they likely couldn’t stop the application from moving forward under the new law.

The city “is willing to take the lead to right this wrong,” Lauderdale Lakes Mayor Hazelle Rogers told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “We would like for every residential community to get the same protection,” adding the law has left certain neighborhoods “vulnerable” – including those not shielded by more stringent restrictions offered by homeowner and condo associations.

“I am concerned about the safety of the residents of Lauderdale Lakes,” said Commissioner Veronica Edwards Phillips. “I am concerned about anything that would harm our residents.”

New set of rules

Until this summer, cities could have a tighter grip on the type of home-based business that could be permitted. Florida House Bill 403 now allows businesses to operate in a residential neighborhood and be rid of pesky rules like how much square footage a person uses inside their home to work, what products are sold, and how many family members can work for a home-based business.

The bill was passed this summer and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Giallombardo, a Republican from Cape Coral, promoted it as a way “to keep Florida at the forefront of freedom.” Enacting House Bill 403 “would show that Florida is open for business – all business,” he wrote in a guest opinion article for the Orlando Sentinel.

The Lauderdale Lakes man is Jameson Labady, a 33-year-old who lives in a neighborhood just southeast of the city’s main corridor by State Road 7 and West Oakland Park Boulevard.

He has had dreams of expanding his business from his home office. He intends to buy ammunition “from manufacturers like Sig Sauer, Winchester, Remington in order to resell them online,” he wrote in his application filed at City Hall.

His business is legally called JSL Security Intelligence and he said it provides private security, but this new venture selling ammunition would be doing business under the name Popping Smoke Ammunition.

Labady told the Sun Sentinel he had no intentions of keeping the ammo inside his house, but would purchase it online from the manufacturer and send directly to the person buying from him. He said he could buy it cheaper by being the middleman and still make a profit: “To make a profit you have to get it from the manufacturer.”

The price of “ammunition is going up like crazy because people thought [President] Biden would be banning it. That caused the price to go up,” he said. What used to be “$9 a box is almost $60 a box.”

But he’s ultimately standing down on the idea, he said, recalling how his homeowner’s association reacted by saying “it’s not the right time.” He said he figured that wasn’t a legitimate reason, but still decided that “I wasn’t fighting it” and will look for commercial space instead.

Raising concern

Reacting to the application, Mayor Rogers sought help when the local delegation of Broward senators and representatives recently met to discuss bills and policies. “Please help us,” Rogers pleaded. “I need you to help us right a wrong.”

She told them the request for the license is pending at City Hall and there is no restriction in place. If a business follows the law, the city has no choice but to allow them to open, Phillips said.

Rep. Michael Gottlieb, the chair of the delegation, was moved by the city’s concerns, and said there had been concern in Tallahassee that “a brothel or gentlemen’s club” could go up in single-family homes, but doesn’t recall anyone talking about firearm ammunition.

“That was the slippery slope,” he said.

“When Tallahassee preempts local government from acting sometimes we wind up with bad policy like this,” he said.

“We’re going to have to refine this legislation because the world changed rapidly for many of us due to the pandemic, and I think we all now appreciate the need to accommodate home-based businesses,” Gottlieb said.

Moving forward

After Rogers raised her concerns, Broward Republican Rep. Chip LaMarca reached out to Giallombardo, the bill sponsor, about unintended consequences. The result: LaMarca said in the upcoming Legislature “there may be some tweaks” to the bill, possibly more clarification about “specific industries” that are not allowed in a residential community.

The bill’s intent was to make it easier so an “insurance salesman or consultant wouldn’t be penalized for working from your dining room table,” but elected officials don’t want to “change the character of neighborhoods.”

Giallombardo could not be reached for comment in recent days.

Encouraging business has been the whole point of the law.

Skylar Zander, the Florida director for Americans for Prosperity, which supported the bill, said the idea was to lower the cost of creating or maintaining a small business by dropping the requirement for expensive and unnecessary office space. It was to allow “people to live the American dream and start a small business.

© 2021 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.