Council passes transient merchant second reading

Gray Hughes

There will officially be new restrictions for transient merchants and vendors in Hill City.

During its regular meeting on Oct. 13, the Hill City Common Council passed the second reading of an update to the regulations controlling transient vendors in town.

In short, the update to the code restricts transient merchants to one 12-day permit to operate in town with a fee of $150 per day or a maximum of $750 for the 12-day stay.

In 2009 a petition was presented to city council with over 185 signatures seeking better regulation of transient merchants. In 2019, a second petition with 83 signatures was presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission. These 83 merchants were asking for the same things that were asked for in 2009.

The Planning and Zoning Commission then started a task force to examine the law on the books and other ordinances pertaining to transient merchants in other towns. The committee presented its finding to the Planning and Zoning Commission in January.

The Planning and Zoning Commission formally recommended the changes at its meeting Sept. 21 and passed the changes along to the council. The City Council passed the first reading of the ordinance revision at its Sept. 28 meeting by a count of 4-0.

At the Sept. 28 meeting, the council asked the Planning and Zoning Commission to explore allowing transient merchants to have more than one 12 day permit; however, the commission decided at its meeting on Oct. 5 to leave it the way it was proposed.

Dale Householder, Hill City alderman, wanted to know if set up and take down time were a part of the 12-day license.

Dani Schade, development service coordinator for Hill City, said the merchant would have one day prior to the 12-day period to set up and one day after the 12-day period to take everything down.

Randy Berger, co-owner of Warriors Work and the Ben West Gallery, said that he brought the idea to change the transient merchant regulations to council 11 years ago.

“Visitors were upset with the number of tent vendors, and nothing was done then,” he said. “Fast forward 10 years later, and tents are popping up earlier and earlier. Do we want our town to have empty lots with people coming and going?”

Berger then read out the names of people who have contacted him to support the transient merchant regulations. Once his allotted time was up, Janna Emmel, co-owner of Warriors Work and Ben West Gallery, finished reading the names.

Between the two of them, 40 names and businesses in support of the transient merchant regulations revision were read.

“Hill City is a unique town in that so many people own the businesses they work in,” Emmel said. “These 40-some names represent millions of dollars in Hill City.”

Jim Burgess, who co-owns the Harley Davidson store in Hill City, also spoke out in favor of the updated transient merchant regulations.

Hill City should be a brick and mortar town, he said.

After him, Jim Peterson, who owns Integrity Realty in Hill City and was a former member of the Hill City Common Council, spoke out against the proposed update.

“The (transient merchants) next to my old office have been here for 12 years,” Peterson said. “They have been contributing to our town by bringing back the same people every year.”

The transient merchants in question set up during the summer and leave Hill City during the fall. The new regulations would put them out of business, Peterson said.

The business just acquired that property, Peterson said, so they need time to set up their permanent operations there.

“There should be a grandfathering phase,” Peterson said. “They are looking at building something. …You are putting someone out of business. I think what you are doing is completely wrong.”

All other members of the public wanted the transient merchant revision to pass save resident Kay Bublick, who agreed with Peterson that existing transient merchants should be grandfathered into compliance.

“I think it’s very unfair what you’re doing,” she said.

Once public comment was closed, Carl Doaty, alderman, said that he has spoken with several businesses who were all in favor of the proposed change.

Jason Gillaspie, alderman, said the main consternation was with one spot in one part of town.

“We heard statements from those who don’t like it,” he said. “Everyone else on that block (the Central Business District) seems to like it. …This has been an on-going issue.”

Housholder, who was on the Planning and Zoning Commission when the transient merchant license was brought back to the commission this year, said any time a contentious issue comes before council it’s hard.

Householder said he feels for the man who operates the transient merchant business within the central business district.

“Though this man should have known this is coming up,” Householder said. “It’s been an ongoing issue since 2009. I represent the voters, and all the emails I’ve gotten was to pass this.”

The motion was made by Householder to pass the second reading and seconded by Doaty. The matter passed 4-0.

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