May 21, 2018
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Mobile food vendors say Kennebunk rule changes could put them out of business

By Jennifer Feals, York County Coast Star

KENNEBUNK, Maine — After some mobile food vendors expressed concern that newly enacted changes to the town’s ordinance would put them out of business, the Board of Selectmen has extended a transition period to allow those vendors to comply, with plans to review the ordinance.

A handful of voters amended the town’s ordinance regarding peddlers, mobile food vendors and door-to-door solicitation at a Special Town Meeting on May 28. The newly approved ordinance requires a more detailed application process, including outlining traffic access, following sign and hour requirements and more. The ordinance limits permitted seating to eight seats or one picnic table, and states that a mobile food vendor cannot be located within 150 feet of an eating establishment where more than 60 percent of the menu is similar.

At the time, the Board of Selectmen set a $150 license fee, limited the number of vendors permitted in town to eight, and set a 60-day transition period for vendors to comply.

“This ordinance will put me out of business the way it is right now,” said Tim Dowling, who runs Village Dog.

Dowling said his mobile food cart is located in front of the Pilot House on weekend evenings, well within 150 feet of “several restaurants.” But, he said, the cart is open when those businesses are closed.

After hearing concerns from two vendors, Town Manager Barry Tibbetts proposed Tuesday that the 150-foot setback be reduced, that the similar products section be reduced from 60 percent to 40 percent, that an exception be allowed for vendors who are not open and serving at the same time as local restaurants, and that the transition period be extended to 90 days.

In addition, Tibbetts said after reviewing the current list of vendors in town, he learned that there are already nine licensed — one over the limit set by the board. He suggested the board raise that number to 12.

“If we make some of these changes, I could possibly work with those and probably stay in business,” Dowling said. “I expect there to be some regulation, but please don’t regulate us right out of business.”

Board members struggled with potentially making changes to an ordinance that has been approved by voters, but also expressed concern for vendors who may be impacted by the ordinance as currently enacted. The board ultimately opted to extend the transition period to Aug. 13, when a meeting will be held to discuss potential changes, which would then go before voters during a Special Town Meeting.

Two board members, Dick Morin and John Kotsonis, voted against extending the transition period, stating they didn’t believe the board had the authority to do so.

“Yes, some could say the ordinance has passed, that’s true. But I think for practical reasons, that it’s a new ordinance and there were issues that came up, that to go back and make those amendments to allow those businesses to continue their operation makes sense and I think the public would support that,” Tibbetts said.

Board members said their primary concern is for the mobile food vendors who could be negatively affected, many of whom have operated in town for years.

“I’m concerned with not putting people out of business,” said Selectwoman Deb Beal.

In other business, the board supported a reorganization of the Community Development, Planning and Codes Office after Caroline Segalla, director of the department, recently submitted her letter of resignation.

The board approved a plan proposed by Tibbetts that would save the town approximately $10,000. Under the plan, Town Engineer Christopher Osterrieder will be appointed as the division director, assuming many responsibilities of Segalla’s position.

In addition, two part-time positions will be created to meet the additional needs of that position, a community development officer and community development coordinator. Segalla would work on a part-time basis, 15 to 20 hours per week, as the community development officer, while the community development coordinator, yet to be hired, would work approximately six to eight hours per week.

Some community development responsibilities would also shift to part-time Economic Development Director Mathew Eddy.

Resident John Costin, who serves on the Budget Committee, expressed concern that the reorganization of the department happened outside of the town’s normal budget process. The board approved the plan on the same night that the town budget was voted on by residents, not including the new proposal, he said.

“This is I believe the third time that this department has been reorganized outside of normal budget process,” he said. “I’m really dismayed to see this happen and particularly in the way it did, on the eve that we voted on a department that was structured completely differently.”

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