Naples tries to clarify street vendor rules

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — A map would be a helpful visual.

Residents at a Naples Board of Selectmen workshop asked to see a map of the designated areas where street vendors could lawfully operate.

According to the ordinance, street vendors can only do business in the commercially-zoned and Village districts. Street vendors will be prohibited from setting up shop in residentially-zoned areas of town.

While changes have been made to the ordinance over the past two months, people were still discussing some of the original, unchanged language in the ordinance.

That included where street vendors can operate.

“I thought we were going to get it down to public land, town-owned land, and put it on a map so we know where people can use a street vendor license,” longtime resident Roger Clement, Sr., said.

Selectman Bob Caron II said the board’s recent vote to go digital will facilitate providing the public with a clear and readable map of the designated areas.

To date, the exact spaces to be assigned to board-approved street vendors have not been chosen.

During Monday’s workshop with local businessowners and concerned residents, recent amendments were reviewed and a few new changes were agreed upon.

For example, street vendors that are part of a once-a-year festival or a town-sponsored event will not pay the annual fee for a license.

That change — an exemption — was decided upon after a discussion about an annual event which occurs on private land that is not in the commercial zone. Clement Sr. brought up a specific example. Every autumn, Chairman Dana Watson leases his private land on Brandy Pond to the group that coordinates the Pow Wow. The money paid to lease the property for that weekend is donated to the Naples Historical Society. No problem there.

However, the vendors who sell their wares from booths are making money while operating on private land that is located in the residential zone, Clement said.

Attorney Mary Costigan, who has been working with the Town of Naples on this ordinance, said an exemption would be the best solution.

“In regards to festivals, it might an easy fix to add another exemption. If a street vendor is in an approved festival or special event, the street vendor is covered,” Costigan said.

Naples resident and local attorney Bob Neault agreed with Costigan that this change would resolve the issue.

“That is easy. The only way to be a designated festival is to get approval from the board of selectmen,” Neault said.

Town Manager Derik Goodine said typically that is what the town does: It waives the vendor fee for both nonprofits and individuals involved in town-sanctioned events such as the Blues Festival and the Winter Carnival.

Participants at Monday’s workshop spent about an hour reviewing the changes as well as problems they had with some of the wording in the ordinance.

There were some definite stumbling blocks for some of the residents. Some businessowners did not like the idea that things could change depending on who is sitting on the board.

At another workshop, Skip Meeker, the co-owner of Rick’s Café on the Causeway, said fees for outdoor dining that might or might not be waived by a future board of selectmen would likely affect the real estate value of his business when he decides to sell.

On Monday, Meeker compared confusions in the street vendor ordinance to the federal government’s healthcare program.

“This is like ObamaCare,” he said.

Clement sought more clarifications.

“This ordinance is not clear about what a street vendor is,” he said.

He had mentioned people who sell firewood outside their homes, which are located in a residential zone.

Costigan responded to his inquiry.

“You (the town) didn’t want a street vendor in a residential district. You only want street vendors to operate in the Village or commercial district,” she said.

Selectman Christine Powers suggested that reasoning be listed under the purpose of the ordinance, which is provided on the front page.

Both the definition and the general location of street vendors have been written into the ordinance that was approved at Town Meeting last year.

According to Naples Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) Renee Carter, people who sell wood are covered under an ordinance governing agricultural activities.

There is also a Home Occupation Ordinance, which mandates how people can operate a business out of their residence. However, that ordinance strictly forbids the small businessowner from selling products in his or her yard.

“Under home occupation, it is very specific that you cannot put your goods outside and sell them,” she said.

“That is not this ordinance. That is under (the) Home Occupation” ordinance, Carter said.

Residents were assured by Carter and Chairman Watson that they can park a vehicle (or vehicle parts) for sale on their property. That is still okay to do, and would not require a permit.

The latest amendments include an exemption and some removal of language regarding street vendors who are under the umbrella of an organized festival or special event.

Therefore, the ordinance is still under revision. The specific changes will appear as warrant articles at Naples Town Meeting in June.

 

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