Town fine tuning vendor ordinance

PHOTO for Naples biz ordupdate2

This is an example of a mobile food service establishment as defined under a Naples’ ordinance that is currently in the process of being revised. The changes and clarifications will be presented as proposed amendments to the ordinance at a future town meeting. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — The ordinance is still a work in progress.

It is work that must be done, just like clearing snow from the public driveways and rooftops. It is work that must be done this winter, just like putting the seeds into soil so that plants will be ready for outdoor gardens by spring.

It is an ordinance that could dictate the appearance of the Causeway and the spaces along Route 302 in Naples for summers to come.

At a recent Naples Board of Selectmen meeting, almost everyone agreed that the original ordinance — which was approved at town meeting in 2013 — has flaws. And, members of the board would rather see it revised and amended than scrapped entirely.

According to Selectman Robert Caron II, “If it is just null and void, this summer could be just a whirlwind. Whoever can set up shop down there (on the Causeway)…Then, we’ll be listening to the businesses complain that someone is set up in front of them.”

Naples business owners and local elected officials have begun working together with the town attorney and the code enforcement officer to resolve problems with an ordinance that applies to permitting seasonal vendors who use public space to sell their products.

Recently, the selectmen held a workshop on amendments to the ordinance called, “The Town of Naples Ordinance Regulating Street Vendors and Occupancy of Streets and Public Lands.” About 10 business owners attended the workshop, which was held at 6 p.m., an hour before the regular meeting.

As clarified by Attorney Mary Costigan, of Bernstein Shur Counselors at Law, town residents will vote on the amendments — or changes — to the ordinance. Therefore, the voting public will decide to approve or not approve the amendments since the ordinance has already been passed.

During a phone interview, Costigan said it was up to the town whether or not to vote on the individual amendments or review the proposed changes as a block.

During the Feb. 24 workshop, some of the items discussed were: which sections of the town would be included in the ordinance, how much would be charged for permits, and if vendor permits would require a public hearing.

The answer to the latter question is: Yes, the vendor licensing process will include a public hearing. That was according to Town Manager Derik Goodine. Even nonprofit groups that ask to use the town’s common space must first come before the board for a public hearing, he said.

However, a topic upon which people did not agree was annual fees.

One business owner said it was unfair to put upon established year round businesses the burden of paying fees to use their outdoors space — and thus pay for maintenance of those areas. She said this would likely be the scenario because an annual permit of $2,000 might deter potential vendors from pursuing Naples as their seasonal venue.

According to Goodine, besides covering the cost of upkeep of the public rights-of-way that are owned by the state but maintained by the town, there is another reason that the fees were created into the ordinance.

“It was so that people didn’t pull in for the weekend,” Goodine said.

Caron agreed that the fees were set at a high rate to discourage someone from coming onto the Causeway for only one busy weekend, like the weekends around the Fourth of July, and making their money off the influx of visitors, he said.

Local businesswoman Karen Thompson said that an entrepreneur that tried making money on the Causeway last summer won’t be back because that person was not able to break even. She said that the $100 application fee upfront, the $2,000 permit fee, plus paying per square foot for space would be a hardship some businesses would not take on.

Caron asked her if she wanted “a lower fee for a less amount of commitment.”

“We are not getting anyone in there with these prices. They are not going to make any money,” Thompson said.

Caron responded, “I would rather see nothing there. That is my personal opinion after living in Naples my whole life. That is why I have no problems with the higher fee.

Thompson suggested a fund — or using town money to help with maintenance of the public spaces so the cost was not on the shoulders of established businesses that are also trying to attract the eyes and the dollars of summertime traffic.

Toward the end of the workshop, Chairman Dana Watson said that it was in the best interest of Naples’ residents to put aside personal issues and pen amendments that would mend the ordinance.

“We have got to keep going on this ordinance,” Watson said.

He added that everyone involved should try to put the things that were bothering them about the ordinance on the back burner, and to move forward with adjusting the ordinance in the best manner possible.

“We have got to set up some sort of system to make it fair,” he said.

“We don’t have to enforce it until we know where that green space is,” he said.

“We have got to get it straightened out,” Watson said.

Skip Meeker, a co-owner of Rick’s Cafe and a longtime Naples resident, responded to Watson comments.

“That is a noble statement. I appreciate that,” Meeker said.

Last year at Town Meeting, an hour of discussion preceded the ultimate passage of the new ordinance. At that time, Meeker pleaded with residents to put the brakes on the proposal. He said people should spend more time fine-tuning the ordinance. Never once during Monday’s meeting did Meeker remind people of his words then.

Like others who attended the workshop, Meeker was aiming for an amicable solution to the ordinance.

Going forward, another workshop will be necessary to make the most suitable changes to the 12-page ordinance.

According to Naples Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) Renee Carter, “the next workshop will be held during the month of March.”

On Tuesday, Carter said she e-mailed Costigan, who responded saying she would complete the proposed amendments by mid-month. The lawyer based the changes on requests and clarifications brought up during the previous workshop, Carter said.

In wrapping up the late February workshop, Chairman Watson said, “I can see we have a lot of work to do” before the amendments go to Town Meeting.

The Naples Board of Selectmen workshop can be viewed online from Lake Region Television’s website, and it is also replayed on Local Access Cable TV. 

 

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