Council votes to restrict roadside vendors, require permits


A law that roadside peddlers say will put them out of business in Anne Arundel County will go into effect Oct. 1.

The County Council voted 6-1 late Monday night to approve legislation that will affect how and where itinerant vendors can park and hawk their wares, whether live crabs, stuffed animals or portraits of Elvis on velvet. Councilman John J. Klocko III, a Crofton Republican, opposed the measure.

The new law -- backed by seafood houses and garden shops -- requires roadside merchants to obtain county permits, restricts them to certain commercial areas and requires them to provide safe and adequate parking. The permits would cost $25 a day or $250 a year and would be enforced by county police on weekends.

Christine Cogliano, owner of Red Rose Florist in Glen Burnie, applauded the new rules.

"The roadside vendors have gotten out of hand," she told the council. "It used to be that you had 12 in the entire county. Now you can find that many in a one-mile radius."

Ms. Cogliano said the appearance of so many flower vendors, particularly during major holidays, is taking money out of her pocket.

"I rely on the major holidays to carry me throughout the year," she said.

Several vendors who sell flowers, snowballs and produce from street-side stands appealed to council members not to approve the bill sponsored by Councilman James E. "Ed" DeGrange, a Glen Burnie Democrat.

"When I'm reading [in the newspaper] that I'm siphoning money from other people who are doing better than I am, it really upsets me," said Robert Niehaus, whose Town and Country Flowers operates a half-dozen roadside stands in Anne Arundel. Mr. Niehaus said his family began selling flowers roadside 25 years ago.

"We've built a business here and have competed fairly," he said. "We'll be hurt very much by this bill."

Pamela Offer of Deale said the law will force her to close the snowball stand she outfitted for her three teen-age nephews three years ago. The stand is in her mother's front yard in residential Churchton.

"When I was a child, we sold lemonade and hot dogs from the front yard in the summer so we had something to do," Ms. Offer said. "If you charge us $25 a day, or cut us out, what are we going to do about the children?"

Although the measure exempts farmers who sell their own home-grown produce, Richard Bishop said the law could force his family to close its fruit and vegetable stand in Harwood.

Mr. Bishop said he supplements the produce he grows on his 27-acre farm with vegetables he buys from other farmers. That makes him ineligible for the exemption.

The Southern Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, which represents farmers and watermen, also opposed the measure.

Pam Gessford, a member of the chamber's board of directors, said the law, which is aimed primarily at growing number of roadside vendors along Ritchie Highway, will hurt many South County businesses.

"North County and South County are different, and we all know it," said Ms. Gessford, the owner of a consignment shop in Friendship. "We have a lot of small businesses in South County" that do business from their front yards.

Paul McHenry, president of the Southern Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, said yesterday that he will ask County Executive John G. Gary to veto the measure.

A spokesman for Mr. Gary said the executive is unlikely to veto the bill, although he is concerned about the possible impact on South County and nonprofit fund-raisers.

Mr. Klocko said he will attempt to amend the law before it takes affect to relax the rules in southern Anne Arundel, which has almost no commercial zoning.

Also Monday the council voted unanimously to grant tax breaks to a nonprofit housing developer in Galesville.

Arundel Community Development Services Inc. will receive a break on the real estate taxes it must pay on 2 acres within sight of the West River where it hopes to rehabilitate 16 rental homes for low-income families.

The agency, which was spun off from the county government to the private sector two years ago, plans to use $1.2 million in federal and state aid to install bathrooms and indoor plumbing in the homes, which date to the turn of the century.

Most of the residents of the West Benning Road enclave were shuckers at the Woodfield Oyster Co.'s now-defunct packing plant or are their descendants.

"We're asking you, do not deprive us," said Renee Sellman. "Bring us out of the 1940s and into the '90s."

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