‘Transient business’ ordinance divides council
By LPR Staff
An effort to protect local businesses and level the playing field for traveling vendors turned into a divisive issue for the Lockhart City Council on Tuesday evening.
At the request of Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram, city staff drafted an ordinance that would require “transient vendors,” (those who set up tables in parking
lots, etc.) to apply and pay for a permit before selling their wares in Lockhart. Bertram said he”d heard several complaints from business owners in direct competition with the transient vendors, and as a result, requested an ordinance.
However, the ordinance raised concerns throughout the council.
“My heartburn with this is that we”re saying that even if owners of private property allow them to come in and set up, [the vendors] still have to pay all this money and get a permit from the city,” said District One Councilmember Kenny Roland. “I think that there should be more leeway than that on private property.”
The ordinance also addresses the problem of both vendors and “hawkers” setting up in public rights-of-way and creating traffic hazards.
“What about the school and church groups?” asked District Four Councilmember Michael Sanders. “When they have car washes and other fundraisers, they put hawkers out on the street, and I want to make sure we aren”t telling them that they can”t do that, or that they have to come and pay for a permit before they can have their fundraiser.”
City Attorney Peter Gruning assured Sanders that the Code of Ordinances has provisions in place for civic, school and non-profit groups.
District Three Councilmember Lew White expressed concern that the ordinance might be open-ended and overly restrictive. He also noted that there are only a few transient vendors that would be affected by the permitting process.
“This is a big ordinance for a little problem,” he said. “I think it”s important that we protect the interest of our local businesses, but I also know that we have some local people that try to set up and sell their wares. I can support it, but we need to come back and review it in a year to make sure that it”s working.”
The ordinance squeaked past a divided council, passing with 4-3 vote. Roland, At Large Councilmember Dick Wieland, and Mayor Pro Tem Frank Estrada voted against the proposal, citing concerns ranging from private property issues to enforcement cost and too-stringent requirements contained in the ordinance.
In other business, the council heard a presentation from Gary Nored, the director of the Lockhart Technology Center regarding the increased usage at the center in the last year.
“In 2005, we had a total of about 245 users,” Nored said. “I suggested that we open the center to the public, and this year, we expect that we”ll have between 6,000 and 10,000 visitors.”
Nored said he has made some changes at the Technology Center regarding curriculum and usage, and he has received a positive response.
“I think that we could increase our enrollment and usage even more if we offered a wider variety of classes and perhaps were open on the weekends,” he said. “Right now, we don”t have adequate staff for that, but whenever we are open, basically, every machine is full from the minute we open until we close.”
In brief council news:
Assistant City Manager Vance Rodgers presented a proposal from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) regarding a “wetlands mitigation” project planned for Plum Creek in connection with the construction of SH-130. Rodgers will continue working with state and county officials to make sure the project is appropriate and effective for the citizens of Lockhart.
The council heard an initial presentation of the Caldwell County Appraisal District”s budget for next fiscal year.
The city will lend its name to a Dallas-based coalition that is petitioning the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality against allowing the construction of coal-powered power plants.
The Lockhart City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Conference Center at Lockhart City Hall. Meetings are also televised on Time Warner Cable Channel 10.