Deferring further action until its next meeting, the Woodstock Town Board on February 19 weighed the pros and cons of seasonal outdoor vending businesses and the license fees that the town charges residents and nonresidents to operate them.
A 1998 local law allows approved vendors to set up shop from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in a designated public area near the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Arts information booth at 10 Rock City Road. Eight vendors — down from a total of about 20 in past years, according to the town clerk, Jackie Earley — currently hold licenses to sell their wares at that spot.
While the law does not limit the number of licenses that the town may issue, it imposes various regulations on vending activity, such as requiring the removal of tents, displays, other equipment, and trash at the end of the business day and limiting signage to a total of two square feet.
In an upcoming letter to the eight established vendors, Earley will ask whether they plan to renew their licenses and inform them that the board may elect to increase the annual fees. Currently, established resident vendors pay $200, established nonresident vendors pay $400, and new nonresident vendors pay $1,000. Out-of-towners have dominated the applicant pool for new licenses in recent years, Earley noted.
The board plans to revisit the matter at its March 12 meeting. Meanwhile, council members debated whether to leave the vending law unchanged, raise the license fees, and limit or phase out the issuance of licenses in the future.
“I’m not opposed to ‘grandfathering in’ the eight current vendors, but I’m in favor of winding it down,” said councilman Bill McKenna in proposing that the town continue to renew the licenses of established vendors but curtail the issuance of new licenses. Councilwoman Cathy Magarelli said that she opposed “winding down” the practice of outdoor vending but favored limiting it to eight licensees and raising the fee paid by nonresident vendors.
“I think that vendors add a certain ambiance to the town,” said councilman Ken Panza, who, like Magarelli, preferred limiting the number of vendors to eight but maintaining that total by granting new licenses when established vendors left the scene. Said Magarelli: “I agree that vending adds a certain flair, but it also affects store owners.” Some local businesses protest what they view as an unfair advantage enjoyed by vendors, who avoid the overhead costs — rent, utilities, employee compensation — that brick-and-mortar stores incur.