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Studying temp vendor rules
Draft of new city ordinance is being considered
W 081815 TEMP BUSINESSES file 2
Stephanie Eillis, center, answers questions about her merchandise at Ellis Open Market on Northside Drive Saturday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Flea markets and seasonal stands have experienced a regulatory holiday in Statesboro this summer while the city develops new regulations for temporary vendors.

Council members and Mayor Jan Moore instructed city employees in early June not to enforce requirements such as a $35 permit fee until the proposed ordinance can be adopted.

But as officials admitted during a City Council work session Aug. 4, the city didn't have much in the way of rules for these types of businesses in the first place. Several owners of temporary businesses also spoke to the council during the session, which was open to the public.

"The city does not have any formal regulations on temporary vendors or temporary vendor permits, and the staff has struggled somewhat to really know how we needed to process this particular type of application," Planning and Development Director Mandi Cody told the council.

Her department worked with the city clerk's office and other staff members on the latest draft of the ordinance. This draft was intended, Cody said, to define the issues involved as the staff seeks further input from the council.

"We really have struggled on how to regulate or not regulate temporary vendors, given some of the council's requests to strengthen design standards, aesthetics and things of that nature in some parts of our town," she said.

The draft of the ordinance can be found on city website, Go to the "Mayor & Council" portion of the top menu, select "Agendas & Minutes," and after the page opens, open the packet from the Aug. 4 work session.


Yard sales, other exemptions

Yard sales and garage sales would be exempt from the permit requirement.

However, the specific exemption creates limits on yard sales and garage sales. Statesboro residents could only hold such sales at their own residences. Each sale would be limited to two consecutive days, with no more than two sales within 30 days or four in a year at a particular home.

Nonprofit organizations, including churches, would also be exempt from the permit requirements, as long as they limit each sale to two consecutive days, hold no more than two sales a year and remove all merchandise after each sale

Events sanctioned by government agencies, such as the Mainstreet Farmers Market, would be exempt.


Temporary vs. seasonal

The rest of the ordinance applies to actual temporary and seasonal businesses, restricted to operating in commercial and industrial zones.

Permits would be required for open-air vendors, those in temporary buildings or tents, and those operating from vehicles, such as food trucks. The ordinance, as drafted, would have applied whether or not the temporary business owner also has an occupational tax certificate, popularly known as a business license, for a permanent location in Statesboro.

But this last point remained open to change.

"That is a question we will have to consider in the final draft," Cody told the council. "If you have an occupational tax certificate for a permanent location, are you then required to have a temporary vendor permit if you go offsite and set up?"

As drafted, the ordinance would require temporary vendors to provide sufficient parking, as required of permanent businesses. It would prohibit the use of sound equipment for hawking products. Any structures used would have to meet life and safety codes.

Any vendor operating for more than two consecutive days would have to supply toilet facilities with running water.


Time limits

More controversial, at least at the Aug. 4 meeting, were the proposed limits on the number of days temporary or seasonal businesses can operate.

A temporary business permit would be good for a maximum of 30 days. Each vendor, and each property, would be limited to three permits per year.

That's a problem for Stephanie Ellis and her Ellis Open Market on Northside Drive East. Her family owns the vacant lot, which includes a paved area from a previous structure. Attempting to comply with requirements previously pointed out by city officials, she placed a portable toilet there and marked parking spaces.

But while awaiting a permit, she closed the market for four months at the beginning of the year, before council members requested the stay on enforcement and allowed her to reopen in June.

Ellis rents spaces to other people who sell used household items from tables. She opens only on Saturdays.

Three 30-day permits a year would cover only 12 Saturdays.

Meanwhile, the proposal would limit seasonal vendors, such as those who sell Christmas trees or Halloween pumpkins, to two permits a year, but 45 days each.

"That's going to limit me to 12 days of business a year, where a seasonal vendor gets 90," Ellis told the council. "Give me 90 days. Or I'll purchase 12 permits, or if you don't want to let me buy 12 permits, if that would make me a permanent business ... then give me 10 months."

David Gerrald, owner of a permanent business, L&D Produce on East Main Street, received multiple notices to attend the meeting.

He previously also operated from a rented, temporary location he tried to make permanent on U.S. Highway 80 but closed last year after he was unable to satisfy the city's requirements. Now he is involved in seasonal sales of items such as pumpkins but in cooperation with a church, he said.

Gerrald said he had no problem with Ellis being licensed by the city.

"I'll have to say that she should just be able to get a business license, period, because her and her family own that property and they're paying city and county taxes on that property," Gerrald told the council.

But he takes issue with temporary vendors coming into the city from elsewhere, selling from vehicles or stands and not paying local taxes, when he pays taxes and complies with regulations.

"I have no problem if you open a produce stand right straight across the street from me, because the only thing that you're going to do is make me sharpen my pencil a little better, but you need to be on the same playing field that I'm on," Gerrald said.

Theo Lanier, AKA the Green Man of Green Man's Corner, also holds a permanent occupational tax certificate, and pays the annual tax. But it's not attached to the former McDonald's location on South Main Street where he has been selling items for a couple of years now.

"I've been doing this 45 years, and this is about all I know to do, is selling produce," Lanier said. "Now, I have my license. I don't worry about nobody else. I abide by the rules."

It wouldn't be fair, he added, to deprive him of his way of living because of the concerns about what other people are doing.

Council members said that some of these businesses would fall into areas still not defined by the proposed ordinance.

"I think we're missing Mrs. Ellis' situation," said Councilman Phil Boyum. "She's almost operating like a yard sale consignment shop."

Having heard other input from council, Cody plans to present possible revisions at the Sept. 1 council meeting.

Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.

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