Frank Scozzafava, a South Carolina businessman, says he brought to Key West an innovative, eco-friendly alternative to gas-burning scooters: Zapp Ride Share, neon green three-wheeled electric scooters seen about the island and what he says is a $2 million investment.
“They’re clean, green and electric,” Scozzafava said Tuesday. “Good for the environment. It’s quiet, there isn’t the noise pollution.”
Rented via an app, in increments that include by the minute, Zapps are unlike anything else on the island — and Scozzafava says the government officials of the island, known for its One Human Family motto, have been far from welcoming by slapping him with more than a dozen code violations.
“Maybe people didn’t want something threatening to the way things are done down here,” Scozzafava said. “Scooter companies make a lot of money down here. Maybe I was going to take a small slice of that pie.”
Zapp, which has a stable of about 45 scooters in Key West, has clashed with city Code Compliance officers, who say Scozzafava can’t just plunk down the green scooters at five hotel locations without first obtaining zoning clearance. That process starts with paying the fee for fire inspections plus ordering a traffic study.
“He’s not in compliance,” said Jim Young, the city’s Code Compliance director, who estimated Zapp is looking at $13,000 in zoning application costs that don’t guarantee variances will come through. “He was instructed to deliver them to customers from Stock Island and drop them off in Key West.”
Instead, Young said, Zapp set up shop at The Marker resort in Old Town and several other hotels along North Roosevelt Boulevard in violation of a law the city revised in 2013 in order to limit the number of scooter rentals on the island.
Scozzafava took to Facebook, lashing out at the city for what he called unfair treatment and harassment — he says his friends were pulled over by local cops who demanded to check their scooters’ tags. He talked about a potential lawsuit.
On Tuesday, Scozzafava said he wished he could take back some of his social media bluster but maintained he has received unwarranted grief from the city over his new venture, which began in Columbia, South Carolina, at the local university.
“Maybe I am in violation of the code, I guess I’m depending on how you interpret what ‘delivery’ constitutes,” he said, adding that technically he has already delivered the cycles to the hotels for customers using the app.
He said he’s hired an attorney and a firm to do traffic studies, and says he met with Mayor Craig Cates and former planning director Thaddeus Cohen before launching Zapp in Key West. He presented Zapp as an affordable answer to the city’s car-less working class who could share the bikes for rental fees.
“I’m not trying to open up a strip club,” he said. “It’s a clean, good product.”
Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen