Council passes transient merchant first reading

Gray Hughes

The Hill City Common Council unanimously passed the first reading of the transient merchant revision put forth by the Hill City Planning and Zoning Commission.

The move came at Monday’s common council meeting.

“Transient merchants in temporary structures have been an issue with brick and mortar businesses in Hill City since 1995,” said Dani Schade, development service coordinator for Hill City.

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 last meeting Sept. 21 and passed the changes along to the council.

The revision includes limited transient merchants to one 12 day period; however, the Planning and Zoning Commission will examine that timeframe at its next meeting on Oct. 5, which is before the common council meets again for its second reading.

The fee for a transient merchant, if the second reading is approved by council, would be $150 per day with a maximum of $750.

While mostly pleased with the revision, Dale Householder, Ward II alderman, said he has an issue with the fact that the license, as it was presented at the meeting, could not be renewed.

“I can’t agree with that,” he said. “If someone wants to sell longer I’m very open to that. That’s more sales tax.”

Jason Gillaspie, Ward I alderman, wanted to know if there was a variance process in the event that someone is asking for something outside of what is permitted.

Particularly, he was concerned about not being able to sell goods downtown in the central business district.

Those selling goods in the central business district would be a part of a Hill City or Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce event, Schade said, which is permitted.

“It’s like Wine, Brew and BBQ,” Schade said. “We don’t charge each vendor for that.”

When it came time for public comment, Randy Berger of Warrior’s Work and Ben West Gallery, who sat on the committee that created the suggestions to the Planning and Zoning Commission, thanked the council for taking action on this matter.

The committee that created this proposed revision worked hard, Berger added.

“One of the issues with transient vendors: having a business for 25 years in this town, it hurts when someone comes up and asks if (they can set up) for the week,” Berger said. “Besides that, it’s the look of things. We don’t want our town looking like a weekend show.”

Janna Emmel, who co-owns Warrior’s Work and Ben West Gallery, also thanked the council and Planning and Zoning Commission.

It’s easy to complain and have ideas, she said, but it’s hard to work and come together.

“It isn’t something everyone is happy with...but I’m so glad we got it done,” she said. “I appreciate action.”

Householder, who was on the Planning and Zoning Commission the bulk of the time when the revision was being discussed, said this is something that was not created overnight. Planning and zoning, he said, has worked a lot of hours to get the ordinance revision to where it was Monday night.

“This is not perfect, but, overall, for the good of the retail merchants I think it’s a good ordinance.”

After a little more discussion, it was moved by Gillaspie and seconded by Ward I alderman Carl Doaty to approve the first reading.

The vote was 4-0.

The council, too, voted on and approved a resolution relating to temporary sign fees related to the new sign ordinance.

The new fee for a temporary sign is $120 per year. This cannot be prorated.

“The public who commented on this proposed fee felt $10 a month to have a daily banner or temporary sign was a great deal,” Schade said.

Signs exempt from this would be feather flags with no wording, pictures or advertising copy, grand opening and business anniversary signs for 14 days and A-frame sandwich boards.

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