CHARGING roadside vendors $250 for an annual permit is not...

July 14, 1998

CHARGING roadside vendors $250 for an annual permit is not onerous. Three years ago the county decided that the proliferation of roadside businesses needed regulation and established an annual fee for these vendors. No one operating a business in a strip mall or a commercial strip in Annapolis would complain if his or her annual rental costs were so minimal.

Nevertheless, Vernon Lohrmann Sr. and James Teague believe the county's fee is "overpriced" and "ridiculous" and are campaigning to have the fee lowered. The retirees sell handmade wooden birdhouses, lawn ornaments and whirligigs to supplement their retirement checks. They argue that the fee takes a huge hunk out of their modest gross income and should be lowered.

Although Mr. Lohrmann's and Mr. Teague's efforts to supplement their modest retirement incomes make for a compelling story, their struggle is not sufficient reason for changing the county's current fee structure. They argue that as seniors, they should be charged a lower fee.

The roadside fee is correctly applied to the commercial activity and not the individual who is doing the selling. What about creating a special fee for a single mother trying to support her family, or for a teen trying to earn money for college? There would be no end to the special cases.

Although Mr. Lohrmann and Mr. Teague see themselves as occasional vendors, they are businessmen. They, like all the 140 or so roadside vendors who have purchased permits, have to undertake some rudimentary business analysis. Is selling by the roadside the best way to market their goods? If they want to reduce their costs and make a higher return, would it make more sense to avoid the annual license and directly sell to gift shops, garden stores and other retailers?

Running a business is never an easy proposition. Every county business would like to reduce costs and improve profit margins. Mr. Lohrmann and Mr. Teague are no different in that regard.

Pub Date: 7/14/98

HD The vendors' lament; The county's annual fee for roadside vendors isn't onerous and should not be changed.

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