Archived Story

Discussion continues on proposed vendor ordinance

Published 10:17am Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Next meeting called for 5 p.m. Wednesday

Between 25 and 30 people filled the Ironton City Council chambers Monday evening as the discussion continued about a proposed ordinance that would regulate vendors during special events.

All council members were present for a public utilities meeting called to discuss the issue. No action was taken on the ordinance and another committee meeting to discuss the issue has been called for 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Ironton City Center.

An amended draft of the proposed ordinance was written between this past Thursday’s regular meeting and Monday’s committee meeting. Among the revisions in the latest version of the proposed law are the definitions of vendor, special event, hosting organization and established business.

The proposed ordinance defines vendor as someone who sells items or services or uses city property during a special events.

A special event is any pre-designated event as determined by the mayor, according to the proposed law.

Hosting organization is defined as the organization authorized by the mayor to put on a special event.

The proposed law defines an established business as a business that has been continuously operating for no fewer than 30 days prior to the start of the special event and sells during the special event its normal commodities or services, which were sold prior to the event.

It goes on to say that the hosting organization will set the fees for vendors who set up on city property during the event. Vendors who do business from private property during the event shall pay a fee of $1,500 to the city for a vendors’ permit and otherwise comply with all zoning regulations, the draft ordinance states.

The latest version of the ordinance also includes a section about the penalty for vendors who violate the ordinance. Anyone in violation will be guilty of a fourth-degree misdemeanor and subject to a fine of up to $250 and a jail sentence of up to 30 days, the proposed ordinance states.

Mayor Rich Blankenship started the discussion by cautioning the council not to rush into a decision about the proposed ordinance.

“I do think we need to study it and not rush into a decision that will come back and haunt us,” Blankenship said.

The mayor said the council’s decision about the ordinance will likely anger one side of the issue or the other.

“I already know that someone’s going to like it and someone’s not going to like it,” Blankenship said. “That’s just the way life is. I think our job is to do what’s in the best interest of the city now and in the future.”

He asked if the new ordinance would supercede the old ordinance on vendors.

Blankenship also questioned the ordinance’s definition of a special event.

“This says it’s up to the mayor,” Blankenship said. “… How do we define a special event? I don’t know the answer to that.”

The mayor also questioned whether lemonade stands, car washes and the like will be allowed during special events if the ordinance is passed.

Murphy said businesses that typically allow groups to use their property to host car washes and the like will not be subject to the vendors permit fee because they fall within their normal business.

Councilman Bob Cleary suggested amending the ordinance to specify which areas in the city would be subject to a vendors permit, rather than charging the fee for the entire city.

“I think, as the mayor said, you have to have more detailed guidelines but it should be specifically authorizing certain parts of town, not everything owned by the city,” Cleary said.

Murphy said the phrase “for use during the special event” would be added to the section of the ordinance that states that fees will be assessed to those vending from city property.

The mayor also questioned how council decided on the amount of $1,500 for the fee. Murphy said the goal is to have a fee higher than any hosting organization will charge to encourage vendors to stay in one central location.

As for the dispute about use of city property for camping during Rally on the River, the mayor said in the future, if there’s an argument about it, the city should consider taking bids and allow whoever submits the highest bid to use the property.

Blankenship encouraged the council to deal with the vending ordinance before questioning the use of city property for camping sites.

The Friends of Ironton need some level of protection during the events, he said.

The debate about using city-owned property for a campsite continued when Friends of Ironton member Rick McKnight said that council and the mayor had told the organization that it could use property for that reason. The mayor denied it, saying that council did not have the authority to do so.

“The property is not the big thing with me, Rich,” McKnight said. “The thing of it is, we go out and bust our butts… 36 weeks out of the year and spend our own personal money going other places supporting the City of Ironton, getting people to come to the City of Ironton for Rally on the River and Gus Macker and it used to be the Octoberfest. I spent many of my own bucks. All we want is a little bit of protection and all we need is some honesty. We can go tell one person one thing behind their back and another person another.”

McKnight went on to say that the ordinance isn’t about carwashes and birthday parties during the events.

“It’s about vendors,” he said. “It’s not about cheerleaders making an extra nickel some where. … It’s about people coming in for the Rally on the River setting up where they want, not paying anybody and selling the same goods that we’re charging people over here where we control to sell their goods.”

Frog Town owner Mark Rutledge spoke out against the vendors’ fee.

“Well the $1,500 is I think ridiculous,” he said. “You go to any rally anywhere in the United States – Rick has been to a hundred of them like I have – they got vendors on every bar you go to. They got vendors sitting around. For me to pay property tax and everything and all, the water bill and everything I pay and employee tax and all that, then I have to pay a $1,500 vendor fee? I just think it’s unreal.”

Another person asked if the city police would be tied up checking permits during Rally on the River.

Friends member Dave Smith said the organization is bringing in a security company for this year’s event. The Friends typically pay the city and county for the officers it uses during the event, McKnight said.

An audience member argued that the fee would stop the vendors from coming which would eventually stop the event altogether.

“Would you rather the Friends of Ironton go broke putting on the Rally with all the outside vendors coming in and not contributing and move to Huntington or Portsmouth?” Smith said.

The discussion about the ordinance will continue at a public utilities meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Ironton City Center.

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