Oxford mulls action on side-of-the-road vendors

OXFORD – City officials came to no conclusion about transient vendors Tuesday except to agree that state law allows them and that too many of them can create a “midway effect” against the town’s ambiance.
Mayor Pat Patterson said that as a businessman, his first instinct is to accommodate such enterprises but added, “One comment was made to me that we don’t want to turn this into Carnival Row.”
Board members mulled the niches transient vendors fill, such as a hot-dog cart that feeds late-night bar hoppers near the Square after most restaurants have closed. They also questioned each other about the fairness of letting low-overhead businesses compete with those that pay rent or property taxes.
Board Attorney Pope Mallette said the present city ordinance regarding transient vendors “is straight from state statute.”
“You can’t outlaw transient vendors; you have to allow them,” he said. “The state has done everything it can to make sure they can be equally regulated and taxed.” The city’s strongest controls, he added, are zoning ordinances, along with licensing and bonding requirements.
“If they go into neighborhoods where they shouldn’t be, our zoning statutes can take care of that,” Mallette said.
Such vendors also must pay sales tax, he reminded the mayor and aldermen.
“Make sure that if they have sales tax and they’re not paying it, we go after that,” he said.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal