Vendors on roads target of bill

Measure would limit selling along paved shoulders

Won't hurt farmers, Ulman says

Some exemptions allowed

council to vote Feb. 2

Howard County

December 30, 2003|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

The intrusion of commerce onto Howard County's roadways is up for examination - and possible elimination.

A bill slated for introduction Monday night in the County Council by Councilman Ken Ulman would ban the use of paved road shoulders for unregulated commerce, including selling flowers, snowballs, hot dogs or produce, or collecting money for charity.

"We're talking about setting up businesses on the paved portion of the roadway," Ulman said, arguing that the bill would not hurt farmers, who often sell produce from stands on their property.

Although the subject of the bill has been discussed repeatedly since it was introduced in September, the measure was tabled and the planned vote on it did not occur this month because a family emergency forced Ulman to leave the meeting early.

"It had the votes. I had to leave. If I was there, it would have been 3-2," Ulman said, predicting a likely party-line vote.

The bill, changed to allow four exemptions a year for groups such as county volunteer fire companies, will be subject to new scrutiny at a public hearing Jan. 20 and a vote Feb. 2. Ulman, a west Columbia Democrat, said the measure is intended to improve public safety and prevent damage to stationary businesses.

Police Chief Wayne Livesay has testified in favor of the bill, though the council's two Republicans say the measure is too broad.

"I support half of the legislation - the part that makes it illegal to solicit money" on roadways, said Ellicott City Republican Christopher J. Merdon. "I don't have a problem with people vending on the side of the road, and that would cause me to vote against it," he said.

Western county Republican Allan H. Kittleman has also said he will oppose the bill as too broad.

"The problem with creating legislation is that it's countywide," Merdon said, noting that a hot dog vendor who operates near the entrance to the county's Marriottsville landfill is not a problem.

East Columbia Democrat David A. Rakes said he plans to vote for Ulman's bill, though he, too, had early reservations about it.

Initially, he said, "I sort of thought it was a shotgun going after a fly." But Rakes said he has had complaints about solicitors in the medians of busy roads in his district, something he said "seems to be a growing enterprise."

But Guy Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat and the council chairman, said he has no reservations about banning roadside vendors. "I think it's a good bill, and I think people are going to appreciate not being hounded in their cars," he said.

Ulman said he has received complaints about two practices - people soliciting cash by walking among traffic lanes at Dobbin Road and Route 175, and Broken Land Parkway at Little Patuxent Parkway; and a snowball truck that often parks along Columbia road in Dorsey Hall, near the village center.

"It's not safe. There's nothing [regulations] in place that regulates safety," Ulman said, adding that people who live near the snowball truck's spot are bothered by the truck's noisy generator. It is not fair to business owners paying rent for a store space, he said, if potential competitors can avoid zoning regulations by just parking a truck near a village center.

Philip Jones, the county farm bureau president, said his group has not taken a position on the bill, but plans to take sides before the public hearing. He is not affected personally, he said, because he runs a dairy farm.

Frank Rhodes, an Elkridge farmer who sells produce from a stand on his property in the 6600 block of Old Waterloo Road, also said the law would not affect him.

"There's not many farmers left, and most of the guys doing that [roadside sales] are not farmers anyway," he said.

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