By Dawn Krebs
FORT PIERCE -- The move towards making Fort Pierce a vacation destination got a little stronger on June 17, when the Fort Pierce City Commission approved to have Bed and Breakfast establishments in the downtown area.
A Bed and Breakfast establishment allows visitors to reside in the downtown area overnight, and then have breakfast provided to them by the establishment the next morning.
While there are currently no applications for a Bed and Breakfast in the downtown area at this time, the amendment was made to city ordinances as part of the forward motion to allow for greater uses in the downtown area.
Commissioners had currently approved a similar ordinance for the Edgartown Settlement District, located a little north of the downtown area.
By allowing visitors a place to stay downtown when visiting the area, the ordinance will be used to further strengthen the growing downtown.
Even though the planning board unanimously approved it during its March 13 meeting, it almost didn't get passed by the council.
Commissioner Thomas Perona shared a concern that the bed and breakfast establishment might be construed as a boarding house or rooming house.
"Is it clear that (rooming houses) are exclusions?" he asked.
Ryan Sweeney, the interim planning manger, explained to the commission that those types of establishments are expressly prohibited.
Commissioner Reginald Sessions disagreed with the ordinance because he was concerned it would compete with the restaurants already in the downtown area.
"Will these be held out to be restaurants where they are open to the public?" he asked. He felt it might infringe on the efforts the city is making to promote the restaurants already in place. "If we are trying to promote our downtown area, and allow our businesses to thrive, I don't see how putting this type of ordinance in place is beneficial."
Commissioner Sessions said he would not mind the ordinance if the establishment were located in a designated area with some sort of buffer from the downtown.
Mr. Sweeney replied that if the establishment was also a restaurant, it would have to be licensed as such.
Commissioner Perona made the motion to accept the ordinance, and Mayor Linda Hudson passed the gavel to Commissioner Sessions, the Mayor Pro Tem, so she could second the motion.
Commissioner Sessions voted against it. Commissioner Rufus Alexander was not present at the meeting.
Commissioner Edward Becht abstained from voting, stating the ordinance may or may not benefit him.
"In order to try to avoid the perception of impropriety, I will abstain from voting on it," he said.
The ordinance passed 2-1.