following article appeared August 29, 2005 in the
vehicle, or rad ride?
By Tanya Caldwell
|Boca, car owner dispute
labels on both sides of car
Richard Newman and
his electric car were fine until he got a call from Boca
Raton's code enforcement department a couple of weeks ago.
Turns out he can't park his three-wheeled car,
the same kind featured in Austin Powers in "Goldmember",
in his driveway because the city considers it a commercial
vehicle. The city prohibits commercial vehicles parked in
driveways or along the street.
Newman has HighTechScience.org,
the Web site for his nonprofit organization, labeled on the
sides of the car and the front bumper.
Now that the city's got its eyes on the
Sparrow, Newman said, his electric sensation has run into
It used to be that
wherever Richard Newman and his 2000 Sparrow went, they were a
hit. They'd head out for bagels on the weekends, or to the
post office, or the bank.
"Wherever I go, it creates an instant
event," he said. If the electric car ever ran out of
juice, Newman just plugged it in to get it charged for their
That was before a code enforcement officer saw
the car parked in the science philanthropist's driveway.
Newman said Code Compliance Supervisor Kenneth Massalone told
him to cover up the side labels because it classified the car
as a commercial vehicle.
If something's not done soon, Newman could face
"There are a number of things he could do to
prevent a rigamarole over this thing," said Jorge Camejo,
the city's director of developmental services.
For starters, Camejo said, Newman could leave the
Web site on his front bumper instead of on the side of the
car. Or he could drape the car with a vehicle cover or a tarp
while it's parked in the driveway.
"It just needs to be covered," Camejo
said. "It shouldn't be that big of a deal."
Newman said he agrees that it shouldn't be a big
deal. That's why he doesn't see a reason for "changing my
"That kind of defeats the purpose if I have
to hide it," he said. "I mean, I'm not doing
Newman said he's not looking for business. The
Web site was only put on there to direct people to more
information about his nonprofit organization and to learn more
about the car, so they won't always have to stop and ask him
questions about it.
"There's no books, there's no records,
there's no checks, there's no employees," Newman said.
"It's not a business in any shape, fashion or form."
In fact, the Sparrow is legally a motorcycle,
Newman said. The single-passenger vehicle has one wheel in the
back and two in the front, and runs on 13, 12-volt batteries.
It can go as fast as 80 mph and up to 50 miles on a charge,
Newman said. It takes about six hours to fully recharge when
plugged into a household socket.
The only business Newman runs is High-Tech
Productions, which produces videos and DVDs for
government agencies. Newman said he uses the profits to fund
his nonprofit agency, which he says donated science exhibits
to the South Florida Science Museum and created science and
technology labs around South Florida and the country,
including Indian reservations.
"I think the city should be commending me
for what I've done instead of fining me," Newman said.
City officials said it shouldn't come to that.
They just want Newman to comply.
"The city obviously has no issue with the
fact that this is an electric car or with the good work he's
done in the community," Camejo said.
For more information
on the Science & Technology Centers visit,