For the past five years, UPS has set up seasonal distribution centers in which the company stored packages in peoples’ garages and in portable storage units for delivery throughout Brevard County neighborhoods — all, it turns out, in violation of county laws.
Brevard County commissioners shut that operation down Tuesday, threatening the company with $500 per day fines for each of its makeshift distribution sites. There were nearly a dozen storage sites, mostly on Merritt Island and near Rockledge. Complaints were received on 10 locations that were investigated and verified by Brevard County Code Enforcement.
“We weren’t aware of this until two weeks ago,” said Robin Sobrino, director of Planning & Development. She said the storage units were in unincorporated areas of the county.
County officials said the company was violating zoning ordinances by establishing commercial businesses in residential neighborhoods.
“You guys can’t do this in Brevard County,” Commissioner Andy Anderson told UPS officials. The county’s rule applies only to unicorporated areas.
Brevard isn’t the first county to stop UPS from running such an operation. Seminole County also found the company in violation of ordinances earlier this year.
Kim Williams, human resources manager for UPS, said the company has 42 operating facilities and 15,000-plus employees in Florida, including Palm Bay and Rockledge. The company anticipates delivering 120 million packages in Florida and plans to hire 3,000 driver helpers and more than 1,000 employees for seasonal help. Many of those are high-schoolers and college-aged students who work through the holidays. They deliver the packages using golf carts.
Commissioner Trudie Infantini said she applauds UPS for hiring the workers, but said putting portable storage units in neighborhoods “isn’t the best choice.”
Williams said the company would abide by county codes. “We’ll be in compliance,” he said.
“Prior to 2009, we used garages to store packages in gated communities, so we would put golf carts in there and deliver. In 2009, the Florida Legislature passed legislation to allow us to use golf carts on roads with posted 30 mph or less speed limits, so we expanded that to other residential areas,” Williams said.
Williams said the practice has helped the company reduce emissions, make earlier deliveries, keep its vehicles out of neighborhoods after dark, and saved thousands of gallons in gas. There are 700 teams throughout Florida using garages and portable storage units “with little to no public opposition,” Williams said.
Merritt Island resident Clay Jeffries said he does not want a commercial business in his neighborhood.
“They do what they want, when they want and where they want for the almighty dollar,” he said of UPS.
Commissioner Robin Fisher said the company is usurping the permitting process.
“I am shocked that UPS, which is a great company, is allowing this to tarnish their image,” Fisher said. “I don’t understand this one.”
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