Elk­ton punts ped­dler de­bate

Town sends is­sue back to cham­ber for rec­om­men­da­tion

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By KATIE TABELING kta­bel­ing@ce­cil­whig.com

ELK­TON — Af­ter weigh­ing sev­eral op­tions on ped­dler per­mits, the board of town com­mis­sion­ers punted the mat­ter back to the the Elk­ton Cham­ber & Al­liance in or­der to get an of­fi­cial rec­om­men­da­tion based on com­ments from down­town busi­nesses be­fore chang­ing the rules for stand­alone food ven­dors.

Mayor Rob Alt, who pre­vi­ously said that he had no prob­lem with the cur­rent ped­dler reg­u­la­tions, sug­gested to wait un­til the Elk­ton Cham­ber & Al­liance weighs in af­ter Com­mis­sioner Jean Broomell pointed out that what­ever de­ci­sion is made would have ram­i­fi­ca­tions on the non­profit’s ef­forts to re­shape down­town Elk­ton.

“I think it is a le­git­i­mate con­cern … The Al­liance is re­ally work­ing very hard to cre­ate an at­mos­phere, and I’d like to sup­port them,” Broomell said dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s work­shop meet­ing. “If the Al­liance is not in­ter­ested in hav­ing

10 ven­dors in the im­me­di­ate down­town area, then I would sup­port that.”

In Septem­ber, Com­mis­sioner Mary Jo Jablon­ski, who also serves as the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Elk­ton Cham­ber & Al­liance, raised dis­cus­sion on ped­dler per­mits af­ter some restau­ra­teurs shared con­cerns dur­ing the Al­liance’s quar­terly mer­chant meet­ing. One month ear­lier, a hot dog ven­dor set up shop in front of the county court­house, one of the main driv­ers of traf­fic to Elk­ton.

As it stands, a ped­dler can set up shop any­where ex­cept in a me­tered park­ing space, with a per­mit signed off by Town Ad­min­is­tra­tor Lewis Ge­orge. Per­mits cost $25 for six months while a year costs $50. If a ven­dor is look­ing to work on pri­vate prop­erty, then they would need to pro­vide the town with a let­ter of sup­port of the prop­erty owner in their ap­pli­ca­tion. Both Waf­fle’n Joe and Crave Eatery food trucks re­ceived per­mits un­der this pro­vi­sion as they stop out­side Union Hos­pi­tal and Wil­liams Chevro­let, re­spec­tively.

In Alt’s eyes, the only lo­ca­tions on Main Street with enough room to reg­u­larly host a food ven­dor with­out im­ped­ing traf­fic were Elk­ton Florist and Premier Auto & Tire. The two court­houses, which are owned by the state, are the only other spots that would not im­pede traf­fic. But other sug­ges­tions floated dur­ing pre­vi­ous dis­cus­sions were cap­ping the num­ber of ped­dler per­mits or lim­it­ing what streets ven­dors could be on.

For spe­cial events held on Main Street, like last week’s Elk­ton Mini Grand Prix, food trucks are wel­come to park down­town with the bless­ing of the Elk­ton Cham­ber & Al­liance. The town com­mis­sion­ers in­di­cated Wed­nes­day that they had no prob­lem with al­low­ing food ven­dors on Main Street dur­ing those event.

Mean­while, Com­mis­sioner Earl Piner re­ported Wed­nes­day that busi­ness own­ers stressed to him that they were pay­ing prop­erty tax to stay in Elk­ton — a cost that ped­dlers don’t have to bear.

Com­mis­sioner Charles Givens shared that per­spec­tive, and be­cause of that, he would say “no ven­dors in the busi­ness district.” He also pointed out that dur­ing his work in Havre de Grace, he doesn’t see the same prob­lem be­cause the town had dis­cour­aged that from the be­gin­ning.

“They have busi­nesses there, they want the busi­nesses to grow and they don’t want any out­side peo­ple com­ing in to de­ter from them,” he said.

Jablon­ski main­tained that, in her view, this was about how the com­mis­sion­ers wanted to shape their down­town district, not about where food ven­dors can work in town lim­its.

“When it comes to Union Hos­pi­tal, Wil­liams [Chevro­let], I’m not talk­ing about that. That has noth­ing to do with these mer­chants down­town or in the busi­ness district. That’s their prop­erty and their choice,” she said. “You want these down­town busi­nesses to pros­per. You want them to stay. We don’t want them to be dis­cour­aged be­cause some­body could get a hot dog for a dol­lar. So maybe the thing to do is look at this a lit­tle bet­ter.”

The Elk­ton Cham­ber & Al­liance will dis­cuss the mat­ter at its Novem­ber board meet­ing, but Vice Pres­i­dent Roger Owens in­di­cated that he will go out and sur­vey Main Street busi­nesses be­fore the meet­ing.

“(Board Pres­i­dent) Larry Crouse and I are not be­yond walk­ing tours and go­ing around and ask­ing busi­nesses, ‘Hey what do you think about this,’ and lis­ten­ing to them,” Owens said Thurs­day. “I can un­der­stand the frus­tra­tion be­cause if you’re pay­ing $4,000 in prop­erty taxes, and some guy can pay $50 and just set up shop out­side … hav­ing trucks down­town don’t re­ally en­hance that im­age. But on the other hand, they’re per­fect for spe­cial events. The res­tau­rants were over­whelmed last week­end [with Elk­ton Mini Grand Prix], and they were grate­ful for the ven­dors.”

The Elk­ton Cham­ber & Al­liance board will meet to dis­cuss ped­dler per­mits, among other busi­ness, on Nov. 6.

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