Sponge Dock merchants differ on regulating sidewalk racks and displays

City will once again take up issue next week

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. - Sidewalk racks are commonplace for many merchants along Dodecanese Blvd. in the historic Sponge Docks section of Tarpon Springs.

Joann Marshall and her sisters visit often and enjoy frequenting the shops.

"It's just a way of doing business that they've done for years; and it adds color," said Marshall, of New Port Richey.

But some merchants say the time has come for a change.

"We need to change the perception of the docks being just a tourist trap," said Rea Sieber.

Sieber owns two Sponge Docks businesses and is president of the merchants association. She believes the sidewalk displays, that started years ago with sponges, have strayed from their Greek heritage when it comes to the products offered.

"Some of the clothing and apparel out here are from India, and shoes from China. 

So, it has nothing to do with the Greek culture; and the merchants association as a whole believes that it would be more attractive to have those racks inside the stores," Sieber explained.

The merchants association supports a recent city ordinance that limits racks to thirty six inches high and can stick out no more than thirty inches from the building.  It also prohibits hanging merchandise and other items from outdoor ceilings.

"I'm kind of disgusted," said Nina Pappas-Gray.

She owns a shop and says the feud over the sidewalk displays hurts business. She would like the restrictions eased.

"I was hanging one dress, one dress, on each rack and I'm not allowed to do that.  I can't put anything on my building; so figure it out," said Pappas-Gray.

Another attempt to figure it out will come next week when the city's Planning and Zoning Board meets at 7:00 p.m. on Nov. 18.

They will then make their recommendations to the city commission; which will discuss the matter the following night at 6:30 p.m. (Nov. 19)

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