Loophole found for seafood vendors in roadside regulation bill


A proposal to channel roadside vendors in Anne Arundel County into commercial centers contains a loophole that would allow seafood vendors to set up in waterfront neighborhoods.

The loophole came to light Monday night during testimony before the County Council on a bill sponsored by Democrat James E. DeGrange of Glen Burnie.

The bill was intended to prohibit roadside sales of everything from live crabs to velvet Elvises in residential neighborhoods. It also would require commercial vendors to pay license fees of $25 a day or $250 a year, obey health laws and provide safe parking.

However, regulators said Monday that fresh seafood sold from waterfront property could qualify -- unintentionally -- for the same exemption granted under the proposal to to fresh vegetables sold from a farm. Anne Arundel has about 428 miles of waterfront.

The council removed any doubt about the loophole when it approved, 4-3, an amendment explicitly equating fresh seafood with produce.

By amending the bill, the council automatically postponed a final vote on the measure until at least July 3.

Councilman John J. Klocko III, a Crofton Republican, said he introduced the amendment in part because the bill was unclear but that his primary goal was to delay the final vote so that there would be time "to correct other deficiencies."

His main concern, he said, is that the bill would virtually eliminate roadside sales south of Annapolis, an area with little commercial zoning.

He said he might draft additional amendments to allow such sales in certain low-density residential and agricultural areas, which are predominantly in South County.

"My intent was not to undermine the bill," Mr. Klocko said. "I just want to get it right."

Several vendors who sell crabs and flowers in the county opposed the bill Monday, saying the restriction to commercial areas could put them out of business.

Paul T. McHenry Jr., president of the South County Chamber of Commerce, also has objected to the bill.

"We have a lot of farmers and watermen who sell their products roadside at various times and locations," Mr. McHenry said in a letter to Mr. Klocko. "To restrict this right is unnecessary government and unfair."

The bill was supported Monday by seafood restaurants, the Anne Arundel Trade Council and other business groups that said the proposal would subject roadside vendors to the same requirements -- including licensing fees -- that they have to meet.

Mr. DeGrange said yesterday that he hopes to close the loophole when the council reconsiders the bill next month.

In other action, the council unanimously approved two appointments to the County Ethics Commission: former Del. George T. Schmincke of Glen Burnie and H. William Gardner, a former deputy county auditor.

The council also voted, 7-0, to increase the fees charged by the county Health Department for restaurant inspections, permits to operate commercial pools and drill wells and perc tests for proposed septic systems. Some of the fees had not changed in 20 years.

The new fees would generate about $143,575 during the next 12 months, officials estimated, and would help offset the cost of the services.

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