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Tougher rules relax a little for vendors

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Tuesday morning, Charles Clark didn’t have much faith in Georgetown County’s government.

But when he left Georgetown County Council chambers on Tuesday night that had all changed.

“I believe in the system now,” he told council.

Clark and other roadside vendors went to council’s meeting this week to ask them to change proposed revisions to the county’s vendor ordinance. The revisions, they said, would have put them out of business, or at the very least made their lives a lot harder.

When they arrived at the meeting, they were told their concerns had already been addressed and the revisions made. It seems council members and county staff had been listening at the last meeting, where vendors voiced their concerns.

In its original form, the ordinance would have prevented vendors from selling out of a motor vehicle in the commercial corridor along Highway 17 on Waccamaw Neck.

For Clark, who sells shrimp out of the back of a pickup truck at the North Causeway, that would have meant setting up a table beside his truck and trying to lift the heavy coolers out of the truck bed and onto the table, then back again at the end of the day.

It would have been a difficult endeavor, he said, as the coolers weigh about 300 pounds.

Joe Durkan, the owner of Bridget’s Irish Ice, said he would have to go out of business if he couldn’t sell from his truck.

Luckily, that’s not going to be a problem. The prohibition on selling from a motor vehicle was eliminated in the ordinance council gave second reading to this week.

The ordinance will still prohibit selling from a tractor-trailer rig.

“There were a lot of changes made. I don’t see where this negatively affects any existing vendor in any way,” said Boyd Johnson, the county’s planning director.

“I think this was a balancing act,” said Council Member Jerry Oakley. “We were trying to find a fair and equitable balance to what could have been conflicting interests. I think we’ve done that.”

Vendors seemed to be in agreement. Some of those who turned out to protest the revised ordinance remained quiet after learning of the new changes. Those who did address council expressed gratitude and support of the revised ordinance.

“I read the new amendments today and I’m pretty satisfied with the County Council members,” Clark said. “They helped us and I appreciate that they didn’t pass all that and make it harder for us.”

Clark said he was impressed that council had taken action to alleviate the concerns that had been expressed to them, but he did have “one little gripe.” He wants the county to find a better way to notify folks who will be affected by changes to rules or the creation of new regulations.

Clark said he didn’t protest the changes to the vending ordinance when it was up for a vote by the Planning Commission, because he didn’t know about it. He learned about the changes from a local newspaper, he said.

Vendors weren’t the only ones pleased with council over the revised ordinance. Murrells Inlet residents also addressed council to give their thanks and support.

The new rules were designed in part to cut down on congestion and improve safety during motorcycle rallies that bring in large numbers of vendors.

“I think you’re on the right track with the roadside vendor ordinance,” said Leon Rice of Murrells Inlet. The ordinance needed to be shored up to ensure Murrells Inlet maintains the kind of atmosphere residents and visitors currently enjoy, he said.

Since tighter restrictions were passed in Horry County and Myrtle Beach to control bike rally activity, Rice said bikers “may want to move to a place with laxer rules.” If that place is Georgetown County, it could create a carnival atmosphere the residents want to avoid, he said.

“I want you to know I really appreciate what you’ve done and I urge you to keep going in that direction,” said Bill Chandler of Murrells Inlet. “A bike rally in Murrells Inlet, which is what a small minority of businesses would like to see, would be very detrimental to the inlet. It would help them for a short period of time, but drive away people who have been coming here for years.”

Though the ordinance needs one more reading, the new rules are effective immediately, as council followed the planning commission’s advice to invoke the pending ordinance doctrine. The fall bike rally starts Sept. 30 and council members wanted the rules in place in time for that.

One of the biggest changes to the rules is that multiple vendors will no longer be allowed to set up on a single property in the commercial corridor. The old rules allowed one vendor for every 100 feet of street frontage a property has.

Special temporary permits can be obtained for festivals and other events, but measures are in place to prevent people from “getting around the intent of the ordinance,” Johnson said.

The new rules also increase the planning department’s ability to enforce rules in the ordinance. If the zoning administrator sees a problem, “she can fix it on the spot,” Johnson said.

“Instead of having to give 48 hours notice, she can stand there and say ‘pick it up and move it,’ and get it immediately corrected,” he said. “I think that’s a huge advance in this ordinance.”

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