TARPON SPRINGS — In May, Tarpon Springs leaders unveiled their Business Recovery Plan, a multi-phased effort to help small businesses cope with the effects of the coronavirus crisis highlighted by the allowance of outdoor dining and merchandise displays.
The act has been renewed by the Board of Commissioners on a monthly basis ever since, despite the fact that Gov. Ron DeSantis recently lifted the indoor dining restrictions that went into effect during the early stages of the pandemic.
On Oct. 13, the commission unanimously agreed to once again extend the program through Nov. 15, but some officials cautioned against continuing the edict indefinitely in light of the pending implementation of a new sign ordinance Jan. 1.
“I think we’re coming to the time where we need to talk and get the board’s input on how long we’re going to extend this,” City Manager Mark LeCouris said, adding he’d like to give business owners “enough time to notify them when this is coming to an end.”
LeCouris said another factor that needs to be considered is the A-frame sign ordinance that’s scheduled to go into effect after the New Year. “That’s a situation that’s gonna be occurring at the same time as this situation,” he said regarding the legislation the commission passed in May that states businesses must use A-frame signs that look presentable, though it stopped short of mandating they be professional.
“So, we’re getting to the point where we may have to talk about how long we’re going to continue this, so we give the businesses enough time.”
Despite the suggestion, the four commissioners in attendance showed no inclination to end the Business Recovery Plan any time soon, and some said they would rather delay the sign mandate.
“The businesspeople are very, very happy that we still have (the plan), and they’re still suffering from the economic difficulties due to the coronavirus,” Mayor Chris Alahouzos said, adding he believes “we should continue this program for another month.”
Vice-Mayor Jacob Karr said he had “no problem” extending it further and would be in favor of extending the plan through the rest of the year and reevaluating it in January or February.
“I don’t think we’re going to see a reprieve any time soon,” Karr said.
Commissioner Connor Donovan agreed, and he suggested they move the implementation of the sign ordinance back.
“I would definitely want to consider postponing that or pushing that back to a later date,” he said, adding he didn’t feel it would be fair to follow the Christmas holiday with an edict forcing business owners to buy a new sign.
Commissioner Costa Vatikiotis suggested they tie their emergency orders to the state’s, stating, “If we’re looking for a natural timeframe as far as ending this, I would think that we should tie it to when the emergency order ends.”
But during the ensuing discussion, Donovan said he “wants to be as lenient and friendly to businesses as long as we can, because even when the emergency is technically done businesses are still going to be in recovery,” and the item ultimately passed by a vote of 4-0. Commissioner Townsend Tarapani was absent.
“We approved to extend it for another month right now, and we will reassess it on a month-to-month basis,” Alahouzos said, adding he did “not want to go any further right now” when it came to extending the program into the New Year. “Some people are still uncomfortable eating indoors, and we’ve had no complaints, only compliments. The point is to help the businesses who still have bills to pay, so we’re going to continue to provide it and reevaluate it again next month.”