West Tampa charity plans to take on code enforcement over food service training truck

12/28/12 Janelle Irwin
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A West Tampa charity is having a hard time running their organization because of some of the city’s codes. Huey Johnson, head of the West Tampa Cultural Society, runs a food truck that trains struggling young people in the neighborhood how to work in restaurants and even run them. He’ll be asking code enforcement officials on Wednesday to cut the community service group some slack.

“They are telling us, although we’re a non-profit agency registered with the state of Florida that we can only operate certain hours based on an ordinance.”

Those hours, he said, were from dawn until dusk. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to close shop after dark, but Johnson said it’s more a matter of principle because he should be able to run what he calls a community service whenever he deems appropriate. But the city views it as doing business which is bound by a series of rules and permitting regulations. Johnson doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s in our charter, in our articles of incorporation with the state of Florida that the truck is used for entry level food service training and retail. That’s the purpose of the truck. We are not vendors.”

Instead Johnson thinks code enforcement officials are targeting the charity because it’s across the street from the low-income housing project, North Boulevard Homes. That development is set to be redeveloped into mixed-use space that could include retail and high end condos. Johnson said he thinks the city wants to shuffle the poor, mostly black community out of the way.

“We’re the last vestige of so-called Freedom Fighters left in the West Tampa area and we’re about to be run off by the so-called West Tampa development idea planned/Riverwalk that’s contemplated by your so-called mayor as well as big time developers who want to come in and help West Tampa, but they’re saying we’ll help West Tampa as long as the population here now don’t exist.”

Due to the winter holidays, code enforcement officials were unavailable for comment. Code enforcement will meet in City Council chambers on January 2nd where Johnson expects to address the issue. Our website has more information about future development plans in West Tampa.

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