FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
ALL MEDIA INQUIRES SHOULD BE DIRECTED TO:
Angelo M. Martin, Esq.
MONROE COUNTY, FL (April 20, 2020) – Today, a Special Magistrate found that farmer’s markets operating within the Village of Islamorada are required to obtain a temporary use permit from the Village before commencing any business activity. Obviously, we are disappointed with today’s decision, which ultimately adversely impacts a number of local vendors in the Florida Keys community, as well as residents and tourists alike who frequent their local farmer’s markets. However, I cannot say that I am surprised.
Back in the early part of 2020, Monroe County used COVID-19 as a mechanism to shut down an entire public highway (US-1), citing public health and safety concerns and the lack of adequate medical facilities in the Florida Keys to manage an outbreak or surge in COVID-19 cases. This road closure ultimately shuttered hundreds of small businesses from Key Largo to Key West, in as little as three months. The passage of time has proven that the Monroe County government officials were misguided; an outbreak or surge in COVID-19 cases never materialized following the re-opening of the highway.
Fast forward to today, as the rest of Florida gets back to business, the Village of Islamorada has adopted a similar strategy to that of the County’s, which is likely to result in the closure of three local farmer’s markets operating within Islamorada. The Village maintains that it is not issuing temporary use permits due to COVID-19. These farmer’s markets provide a venue for dozens, if not hundreds, of local vendors and artisans to offer their goods and crafts for sale to the public. All of this comes on the heels of significant financial investments having been made to expand parking and mitigate any adverse impact on local traffic patterns. No harm is being done and any past harm that may have been caused has been resolved to the Village’s satisfaction. There is no doubt the Village is engaging in a course of conduct that fails to consider the interests of the community as a whole.
Since the beginning of this pandemic, our constitutional liberties as Americans have been and continue to be under attack by local and state governments nationwide. My client chose to take a stand today to defend the rights of the business and those of its neighbors within the Florida Keys community from government overreach and interference. For some vendors at the Florida Keys Farmers Market, this weekly weekend activity comprises a substantial source of income, and participation in these markets constitutes the means by which they are able to support themselves and their families. The Village of Islamorada Code of Ordinances very clearly defines what is and is not a temporary use, and the special magistrate deviated away from that definition in arriving at his decision today. Accordingly, we will be weighing all legal options, including but not limited to, the filing of an appeal. It’s time to let small businesses thrive again.