Town planner urges PC to allow itinerant vendors in town

BLYTHEWOOD – As the town government enters a second year of wringing its hands over what to do about itinerant vendors in the Town Center District, the vendors got an unexpected boost at Monday night’s Planning Commission meeting from the Town’s Planning Consultant Michael Criss who championed them as beneficial to the business community, even telling Commissioners, “This kind of business is encouraged in the Town Center District.”

While Criss clarified to The Voice after the meeting that none of the town’s ordinances or the Master Plan actually encourages vendors, he said the Master Plan favors a mix of kinds of commerce.

Earlier this year, Town Council charged the Planning Commission with coming up with guidelines for itinerant venders in the Town and how to regulate them.

Commissioner Michelle Kiedrowski offered a draft ordinance that she said was a jumping off point for discussion.

“Are the Beaufort and Walterboro vendor ordinances pertinent to Blythewood?” she asked. “Do we even want to have an ordinance? How deep do we want to go with it? I know there are some complaints about Grace’s Coffee and the vegetable stand. Some [brick and mortar] businesses say their business may be taken away by vendors, so, obviously the ordinance must protect the town, the businesses and citizens.”

“Well, the licensing and insurance are all here,” Commission Chairman Bryan Franklin said about Kiedrowski’s draft.

Criss’s said his concern was that the vendors do not obstruct traffic, pose no hazards and that plumbing and electricity are properly installed and inspected.

“And if you have the vendors to move each night, that may cure any perceived problems, though you may find that some vendors want to stay overnight,” Criss said.

“The concern I’m hearing from citizens is that this is not just about where and when vendors park, but there is concern that these mobile vendors will take business away from [brick and mortar] businesses,” Kiedrowski said.

“Well, that’s the balance, encouraging these low cost start-up businesses who might graduate into brick and mortar permanent businesses,” Criss said.

Criss also said that it might be difficult for the town to relegate vendors to certain spots in the town.

“The zoning must be consistent. What you come up with must be consistent for the whole zoning district,” Criss said.

Parker suggested that the ordinance might restrict vending stands entirely except for special town events.

Commissioner Marcus Taylor liked that suggestion.

“How about no vendors except for special events?” Taylor asked.

“But you must consider the investment a food caterer makes in a food truck. That could be $100,000. Why doesn’t he just build a building? Because he needs to be able to move to different locations,” Criss said. “With changes in the economy, customers are not as faithful to brick and mortar fixed locations.”

Christ also suggested that businesses might partner with vendors.

“A restaurant might have a taco truck on its parking lot. There’s economic vitality in allowing a great mix of business activity, but you want to protect the aesthetics of the community. Fortunately, you have the Board of Architectural Review,” Criss said.

However, the Board of Architectural Review has not placed any restrictions on the current vendors concerning paint color, building materials, etc. that brick and mortar businesses in the town must adhere to.

“We don’t have any brick and mortar business people in here. Basically, we are making these decisions for people who are not in here,” Taylor said.

“Just recommend something,” Commissioner Robert Cappadonna said.

“Michelle has a good draft here to let Town Council debate,” Franklin said.

“I don’t think it’s ready for Council,” Michelle cautioned. “Do you have any edits?”

“It has what I wanted,” Franklin said. “”license and insurance requirements.”

“I was actually hearing the Council say they expect the Planning Commission to present a completed draft,” Parker said.

“Ok, we’ll refine what Michelle has here for next time. We do need to get it going.” Franklin said.

The Planning Commission meets the first Monday of every month.

Comments

  1. I’m okay with HotDog vendors and peanut vendors as long as they are not in the street where cars ride nor on someone else’s property without permission. Businesses fail because they have nothing to sell that people want. Businesses thrive, like Blythewood Consignment, and Wendy’s, because they DO have merchandise and Food that people DO WANT TO BUY. It’s simple economics. needs no ordinance at all. They will thrive or fail on their own. The dollar will provide their leadership.

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