Roadside vendors irked by proposed regulation


For the past three years, Anthony Fernandez and Howard Davis have spent their weekends catching crabs on the Eastern Shore and selling the live crustaceans hours later from a truck parked along Ritchie Highway.

The two men say they would be driven out of business by County Councilman James E. "Ed" DeGrange's proposal to license and regulate roadside vendors.

"This bill is unconstitutional, discriminatory, and it infringes 100 percent on everybody's right to have a livelihood," Mr. Fernandez said. "There's no fee now for produce vendors or someone that sells crabs now in Anne Arundel County. This will undermine everyone's chance to buy fresh products."

The bill would force roadside vendors to park only in commercial areas, require them to get written permission to park there from the property owner and require them to pay $25 a day or $250 a season for a license to sell their products.

Mr. Fernandez said he and other vendors are planning to voice their objections to the council when it meets at 7:30 tonight at the Arundel Center in Annapolis.

"Seafood vendors are already licensed and regulated. They already pay anywhere from $50 for a limited license to $300 for a universal license that also allows you to catch fish," he said.

Anne Arundel County requires a huckster's license for ice cream and snowball vendors, but the regulations don't cover roadside vendors who hawk traditional summer fare, such as live crabs, plants, furniture and produce.

"I know Mr. Fernandez doesn't like this," Mr. DeGrange said. "I know he feels like we're trying to run him out of business. I'd be happy to sit down with him and address his concerns, and to date he hasn't done that."

Mr. DeGrange said he decided to introduce the bill after florists complained about the competition.

"Some garden center owners and some florists talked to me, complaining that these businesses were setting up alongside of the road," Mr. DeGrange said. "They pick the spring and fall seasons, when flowers are the most popular, and grab the business and run."

Mr. DeGrange said he doesn't believe that it's fair that traditional flower shops and garden centers are covered by licensing and zoning rules when their competitors aren't regulated.

The Anne Arundel Trade Council agrees, said chief executive officer Jeannette Wessel.

"Look at a seafood shop that has been approved and inspected and done all the right things to ensure the health and safety of their product, and here's some guy who sets up on the side of the road selling crabs out of a truck," Ms. Wessel said.

"It's not fair to those businesses that have invested in doing it correctly. And there's a safety issue with vendors of highly perishable foods like seafood."

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