SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Proposed restrictions on vending at the turnout on Route 102 at the head of the harbor drew strong criticism at the board of selectmen’s meeting Nov. 25.
Town Manager Don Lagrange said the intent is to prevent dangerous traffic conditions by regulating the number and type of roadside vendors. But several people at the meeting said some of the proposals are unreasonable and have little or nothing to do with safety.
Under the vending rules that Lagrange drafted, the town would make a limited number of parking permits available to vendors. Permits would be good for alternate days of the week.
“Historically, there have been some small vendors who would sell there occasionally,” Lagrange said. “But I think the proliferation of vendors would cause some chaos for traffic.”
He has proposed that vendors be permitted to sell from nothing larger than a car or small pickup truck, and that they not be allowed to have any external equipment, fuel containers or storage.
On-site preparation or consumption of food would be prohibited, which Lagrange said would limit the amount of time customers are parked at the turnout or across the road.
“If you’re going to sell goods that you have to manufacture on site and then people have an opportunity to consume it on site, you’re talking about a lot of time, and you can accumulate a lot of vehicles,” he said. “I’m basically concerned that you’re going to have traffic congestion there if you allow vehicles in a place that was designed … for view purposes only.”
But Bob Cousins, whose daughter, Cassiar O’Neill, operated a food truck at the turnout this summer, said those rules directly target her and would put her out of business.
“How can you say that some people can vend there because their goods are a certain kind and some people can’t?” he asked.
“If you’re going to regulate it, ban the whole thing. Because if it’s a safety issue, somebody pulling in to buy a pie is just as apt to get in a fender bender as someone that pulls in for a Juicy Lucy.”
O’Neill said a Juicy Lucy is a type of hamburger she sells from her truck.
Lagrange referred to her food truck during the selectmen’s Nov. 11 meeting, when he first asked the board to consider regulating roadside vending. He said the truck was more like a permanent business than a typical roadside stand, noting that there had been propane tanks, a generator and a gasoline can outside the truck.
“Those are earmarks of a full-fledged business on public land,” he said at the time. “We have a lot of businesses in town that it competes against … I have an issue with that particular type of vendor.”
Board chairman Dan Norwood said at the Nov. 11 meeting that he had heard complaints from some people who live near the head-of-the-harbor turnout about the “objectionable appearance of some of the equipment that’s there.”
O’Neill’s food truck is bright pink.
Cousins said at last week’s meeting that it’s clear that the proposed ordinance changes are not intended solely to promote public safety.
“I think this is being whitewashed as some sort of safety issue when it’s really … about my daughter’s business,” he said. “She’s a fledgling business, and you’re going to stymie her right in the beginning because somebody’s viewshed is being impacted.”
Acting Police Chief Mike Miller said the rationale for the proposed regulations is “purely safety.”
“We’re been fortunate that nothing serious has happened there yet,” he said.
Others at the selectmen’s meeting last week took issue with the proposal to limit roadside sales to “native and local foods, agriculture products and locally made crafts.”
“What’s the logic of putting definitions of (vendors’) wares in a safety ordinance?” asked former selectman Kristin Hutchins. “If I get my tomatoes from Tremont, it’s OK to sell them, but if I get them from Ellsworth, it isn’t?”
Lagrange said the town’s attorney was reviewing the language of the proposed ordinance changes, and that the selectmen could revise or reject the changes.
“Tonight’s meeting is to get feedback from everybody so we can give guidance to the attorneys about where the town wants to go,” he said.
He said he took much of the language for the proposed ordinance changes from the city of Portland’s vending ordinance.
Southwest Harbor resident Susi Homer said, “I understand that Portland has some significant issues, but we’re not Portland, not by a long stretch.”
She questioned the need to be so specific about what can be sold or consumed at a roadside turnout.
The proposed regulations would permit vending only at the turnout near Manset Corner at the head of the harbor and at the Norwood Cove turnout on Route 102 just south of Fernald Point Road. Both turnouts are part of the state highway right of way. The regulations would not apply to vending on private property.
Lagrange said the selectmen could adopt the roadside vending regulations as amendments to the town’s traffic and parking ordinance, whereas a separate vending ordinance would require voter approval at town meeting.
But Norwood, the board chairman, indicated the board probably would not rush to take action.
“Don will be looking at different language and bringing it back at another meeting,” he said. “This is something we will be working on for some time, I think.”