Ordinance proposed to regulate vendors downtown


Madalyn Edwards, Associate News Editor

The Downtown Boone Development Association proposed an ordinance June 13 that would place regulations on street vendors selling goods on town-owned property in the downtown area if passed.

According to the draft, which is labeled as chapter 115 in the Town of Boone Code of Ordinances, the reason for the ordinance comes from multiple concerns, such as safety and aesthetics.

Lane Moody, executive director of the Downtown Boone Development Association, said in an interview that vendor input was utilized in the development of the draft ordinance.

“We’ve come together to put in place this ordinance,” Moody said.

Among the proposed regulations is the implementation of a yearly $50 permit that must be displayed at all times. The draft would not require the itinerant street vendors to pay the additional tax permanent businesses are subjected to pay in order to have a business located downtown.

Additionally, vending spaces would be limited to the sidewalk in front of the post office, which is located on the corner of Linney Street and King Street.

The town manager would have the authority to decide if sellers are allowed to vend in front of the post office during special events being held downtown, according to 115.02 of the draft.

Vendors would also be restricted from selling certain merchandise if the ordinance is passed. Merchandise such as used clothing, home furnishings and similar used goods would be restricted, as to disallow vending in the nature of yard or flea sales.

In addition, food that requires a heat source to prepare would be restricted. Tents and canopies would not be permitted for vendors to use.

According to the draft, which defines several terms related to vending as established by the association, buskers and street performers are exempt from the regulations.

The ordinance would not limit vending to local residents but would continue to allow anyone regardless of residency to vend.

The draft says the town manager also retains the right to regulate vendors to maintain safety, sightliness and dimensions of a vending space.

Sites may be changed or removed from availability in the town manager’s discretion, and applicable rules otherwise modified, without advance notice to any permitted vendor,” states section B of 115.05 of the draft.

Moody said the association wants to be supportive of local artists that vend in the downtown area.

“They really want to be supportive of our local artists, and, but also being respectful of the space and that aesthetic,” she said.

Moody said she is aware of some complaints from brick-and-mortar business owners in regard to competition with street vendors.

She also said she understands that some street vendors may not respond positively to the new ordinance.

“I anticipate that the vendors are not going to be happy about being restricted to the spaces that they can use but I think it is important to put some parameters around what’s going on downtown,” Moody said.

Permanent business owners and street vendors were allowed to share their thoughts, concerns or approval during a public input meeting held June 20 at 8:30 a.m. in the Appalachian Theatre Community Room. 

Both itinerant vendors and those associated with the permanent businesses were in attendance.

Additionally, board members from the Downtown Boone Development Association were in attendance, as well as Allison Meade, a local attorney, who outlined some of the regulations of the draft ordinance during the public meeting.

Brick-and-mortar business owners and street vendors were given the opportunity to publicly speak about the issue for up to five minutes each.

Kelly Mosenfelder, vendor and owner of Barefoot & Brazen, said she obtained permission from stores to set up her table. She claimed that many vendors take up less space than some businesses that place racks of merchandise outside of their stores.

Mosenfelder also said she believed the post office is not a good place to relocate vendors. 

I don’t think the post office is a good place for us at all,” Mosenfelder said. “Sure, it’s wide, but there is absolutely no foot traffic there.” 

Vendor Taylor Oakey of Distant Daydreams Jewelry sells her art downtown. She said some of the language in the draft could carry a negative connotation.

I think the connotation of the word aesthetic could be perceived negatively both street vendors and brick-and-mortar stores that add value to the town and character,” she said.

Oakley also said street vendors help visitors who are exploring the downtown area.

Sometimes street vendors are the first people that guests to our town see,” Oakey said. “They give out parking information, where to pay parking tickets. We give local food suggestions. We support the local stores and tell them where to shop if they are asking for suggestions.”

Oakey suggested the ordinance could include more designated vending locations.

Others showed approval for the draft ordinance.

Vendor Chad Hicks runs Sunset Slush High Country with his family. He said he supports the implementation of some regulations. 

I believe there needs to be parameters,” he said.

Hicks also offered suggestions for the ordinance.

“I would love to see the little rock wall area included in the ordinance as well,” he said.

Bob Snead of the downtown business Dancing Moon Earthway Bookstore said he believed that “a lot of fine points have been made” but “it’s just not fair” for vendors to sell goods without following the parameters store businesses have to.

Other brick-and-mortar business owners said vendors compete with their stores and could potentially take away customers.

According to Moody, in order for the ordinance to be implemented, the Boone Town Council must pass it. She said there is no official timeline for its passage, but the Downtown Boone Development Association plans to meet Tuesday and finalize the draft which will then be presented to the council July 12.