Yesterday, February 22, 2015, members of the Libertarian Party of Palm Beach County showed up to see how they could help with a local church’s fight with the City of Lake Worth over licensing. The Common Ground church borrows space from the Common Grounds coffee house at 12 S J St in Lake Worth for a few hours a week.
The libertarians in attendence yesterday questioned the need for asking permission from the city to conduct their services. The State of Florida does not require the licesensing of religious organizations. It would appear the libertarians are correct as the City of Lake Worth code exempts religious organizations in Section 14 of the city’s municode. And since the Common Grounds coffee house does have an active business license with the city, many are wondering what the problem is. Section 14-2 of the city municode states “Exempt from this definition are the customary religious, charitable or educational activities of nonprofit religious, nonprofit charitable and nonprofit educational institutions…”
The issue erupted on February 9, 2015 when city code enforcement officer, Gerard A. Coscia, clandestinely filmed the church service in progress and told the pastor that would be his last church service at that location. The violation was sent to the landlord for leasee Coffee Grounds Coffee – the company for which let the church borrow their space for a few hours to hold their services. Mike Olive is both the pastor of the church and the owner of the coffee shop. Libertarians are perplexed why a business owner, if already paying a licensing fee, cannot use his or her facility for a few hours a week for a religious service without having to ask the government’s permission to do so.
Code enforcement in Lake Worth has often been at the center of controversy and has kept many people from moving to and doing business in the city. Aggressive code enforcement officers have actively cited residents and businesses to generate fees for the city. It has been a contributing factor as to why Lake Worth has over 1,000 vacant properties because residents could no longer keep up with the thousands of dollars in code enforcement fees. With all the aggressive code enforcement, one may think the city would like something like the idealic Seaside, Florida – location of the movie, The Truman Show. But Lake Worth continues on its decline when it could be a jewel in Palm Beach County.
Last year, the City of Lake Worth’s code enforcement was the subject of an audit showing corruption and overly aggressive actions. The city promised changes to the code enforcement division; however, that has clearly not happened. Many libertarians who helped get many of the city council on the dais are now embarrassed and hope to change the “draconian direction” the city continues to take. A few years ago, local libertarians were working in the direction to move into the city and move the government in a more libertarian direction. Yet, some have left, including former Libertarian Party of Palm Beach County chairman, Bill Sadler, who sold his Lake Worth home and bought an Airstream to travel the country in freedom.