SOUTHWEST HARBOR — A revised plan for regulating parking and roadside vending at the turnout on Route 102 at the head of the harbor has drawn mixed reviews from the board of selectmen.
Under the proposal that Town Manager Don Lagrange presented to the board last week, vendors would be required to have a license from the town. Parking by their customers or anyone else would be limited to 20 minutes.
His proposed ordinance amendment also would prohibit “preparation of food products and food products sold for immediate consumption on site.”
The main reason for that, Lagrange said, was that “certain vendors can definitely attract much more traffic and retain much more traffic than others.”
Under his original proposal, which the board discussed and then tabled in November, on-site preparation of food would be prohibited, which Lagrange said would limit the amount of time customers are parked at the turnout or across the road. Also, vendors would be permitted to sell from anything larger than a car or small pick-up truck.
But Bob Cousins, whose daughter, Cassiar O’Neill, operated a food truck at the turnout last summer, said at the Nov. 25 selectmen’s meeting that the proposed rules directly targeted her and would put her out of business. Lagrange had referred to O’Neill’s food truck at a meeting two weeks earlier, saying that it was more like a permanent business than a typical roadside stand.
Scott Alley, the town’s public works foreman, said at the selectmen’s meeting last week that he hadn’t observed any parking or traffic problems at the turnout until the food truck began operating there last summer.
“When that vending truck was there, you had every dump truck in town stopping there because it was an easy place to pull over. That’s where the problem was, people stopping to get lunch.”
But several board members expressed reservations about restricting what roadside vendors can or cannot sell. Selectman Tom Benson said he could support time limits on customer parking and the issuance of vendor permits “rather than saying this type of business is allowed and this one isn’t. I’m not sure we want to get into dictating specific food…”
Board chairman Dan Norwood agreed.
Susi Homer, president of the Southwest Harbor-Tremont Chamber of Commerce, said, “I’m glad to hear that going after individual types of businesses is not something you want to do.”
Board members questioned how many vending permits might be issued and for what time period. Interim Police Chief Mike Miller suggested that, to give more vendors an opportunity, permits might be good for alternate days of the week.
The board took no action, with members saying they needed more time to consider Lagrange’s proposal and possible alternatives.
“We may decide not to enact anything further and take a wait-and-see attitude,” Norwood said.
However, at Homer’s suggestion, the board did agree to ask the Maine Department of Transportation to lower the speed limit on northbound Route 102 on Long Hill, south of Manset Corner, from 30 to 25 miles an hour.
Homer said that if vending and parking along the roadside really is a safety issue, then traffic approaching the head-of-the-harbor turnout should be going slower. The speed limit north of the turnout is already 25.