SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Roadside vending here is getting out of hand and probably needs to be regulated, town officials said.
The area of concern is the turnout on Route 102 at the head of the harbor near Manset Corner. The turnout is part of the state highway right-of-way.
This summer, different people were there selling seafood, pies, vegetables and firewood. And for the first time, a food truck was selling made-to-order lunches.
Town Manager Don Lagrange told selectmen Tuesday night that the food truck is more like a permanent business than a typical roadside stand.
“It’s not like when you stop to buy a pie or some fish, where you buy it and leave,” he said. “Here, you park and wait for your product and some people stay there and consume it. That’s an extreme use of that property that should not be allowed in that area. I think it’s going to be a traffic hazard.”
Lagrange noted that there have been propane tanks, a generator and a gasoline can outside the food truck.
“Those are earmarks of a full-fledged business on public land,” he said. “We have a lot of businesses in town that it competes against without them [the food truck] having any expense to being there. So, I have an issue with that particular type of vendor.”
Lagrange said the town might address the situation through the existing parking ordinance or by adopting a mobile vending ordinance such as those in other towns including Bar Harbor and Mount Desert.
He said he has asked the planning board to take up the issue at its meeting next week.
Selectmen Dan Norwood and Lydia Goetze said they though it would be difficult to regulate roadside vending without an ordinance that spells out what is and isn’t allowed.
Goetze said part of the reason for the roadside pullout being there is so that people can stop and enjoy a scenic view that the town, in its comprehensive plan, deemed “significant.”
“I don’t think we want to encourage or permit an activity that completely interferes with that, and I think we are verging on that,” Goetze said.
Norwood said he has heard from a number of people who live near the head of the harbor about the “objectionable appearance of some of the equipment that’s there.”
“Most of the landowners in that area are paying huge taxes for water views, and if there’s something objectionable blocking that view, that’s a difficult situation,” he said.
Anny Seavey, who sells her homemade pies at the head-of-the-harbor turnout in the summer, said she agrees. Referring to the food truck, which she described as bright pink, she said, “I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it doesn’t take too much to figure out ugly.”
Seavey said she thinks the town should adopt some rules on roadside vending.
“I think the situation down at the corner has been very safe to this point,” she said. “But if more people feel that is something they also would like to do … it’s going to get too congested, and there will be an accident. Nobody wants that.”
She also said that anyone who sells food at the side of the road should be licensed by both the state and the town.
Selectman George Jellison said that while he agrees with the idea of looking into controlling roadside vending, he doesn’t want the town to go too far.
“There have historically been vendors at the head of the harbor,” he said. “We also just got certified [by the state] as business friendly. So I think we ought to keep that in mind.”
Lagrange said he would do more research on vending ordinances and consult with the town attorney prior to the selectmen’s meeting in two weeks.
Norwood, the board chairman, said the issue would be back on the agenda for that meeting.
“If we’re going to ask the voters to enact an ordinance, it’s going to take us a little time to figure out,” he said. “We want to get it right.”