Palm Coast Code Enforcement is notifying Kohl's and other stores that they can't allow overnight parking.
It was clear from the beginning that they were getting away with something. Truck drivers often have difficulty finding a place to park their rigs overnight in Palm Coast, and so John Bielka asked the management at Kohl’s if he could park in the expansive parking lot, rather than paying $100 or so per month to park on a designated lot across town.
A sign in the parking lot warns drivers that their vehicles could be towed: The lot is zoned for retail, not for overnight truck storage.
“Most people in the trucking industry live paycheck to paycheck. I have a heart for truckers.” — Rita Bielka
But, according to John’s wife, Rita Bielka, “Kohl’s allows people to do it, but didn’t condone it. … They weren’t going to tell us yes or no. … They were supportive of truck drivers. I felt that.”
A manager at Kohl’s, who declined to give her name in a phone interview with the Observer, said that was essentially accurate, but emphasized that permission is not granted, and the sign “clearly states that it’s a tow-away zone.”
If one or two semi trucks are parked in front of a store overnight, no one might notice. But word apparently spread quickly, and as it got to be a dozen or even 14 semis at Kohl's, the city’s Code Enforcement Department started to get complaints.
The manager stated, “It’s gotten out of control.”
As a result of the complaints, the city has notified Kohl’s that fines will follow if they continue to allow trucks to park overnight in their parking lots. Kohl’s was scheduled to go before the Code Board in July, but, the manager said the problem is “being addressed.”
Kohl’s isn’t the only one. Walmart is scheduled to go before the Code Board in August. St. Joe Plaza is “being watched,” according to Palm Coast spokeswoman Cindi Lane. Meanwhile, The Home Depot, Staples and Lowe’s are in compliance.
City Manager Jim Landon said the enforcement is nothing new; it come and goes in cycles. After the trucks are cleared out, everyone is in compliance for a while, and then a truck or two start parking overnight again, and it builds.
“If it’s just someone driving through, and they need a night break, and they pull in, most people aren’t going to care,” Landon said. “But when you see 14 of them there, it’s a different story. … It’s a truck stop. It’s truck storage.”
Bielka said she isn’t angry with the city, but she wishes there were some way to help the struggling truckers who are just trying to find a way to park closer to home and save some money.
“Most people in the trucking industry live paycheck to paycheck,” said Rita Bielka, whose father also drove a rig. “I have a heart for truckers.”