Aim is to protect city’s aquatic center investment
By Joe Vandelaarschot | GM Today
Restrictions approved by Hartford’s Common Council will make selling more difficult for transient merchants.
The amended ordinance changes the time period when transient merchants can knock on city residents’ doors and how closely they can operate near competing permanent businesses and public parks where nonprofit groups are selling merchandise or food.
“After hearing complaints from residents, we are presenting revisions to the time when sales can take place and limiting where they can sell when their location might cause conflict with competing permanent businesses,” City Administrator Steve Volkert said.
The council approved the changes Tuesday after waiving council rules requiring a second and third reading of the ordinance before a final vote.
According to the executive summary included with the proposed ordinance, the “city has received complaints from residents of transient merchants coming to their doors after dark nearing 9 p.m.” The amended ordinance won’t allow knocking on doors after 8 p.m. and before 9 a.m.
Volkert said the approved changes are “a pre-emptive move” so when the new Veterans Park Aquatic Center opens July 1 transient merchants cannot be within 500 feet of the park. That includes ice cream trucks that are spotted traveling around the area during the summer.
“I saw it when I was in Omro,” Volkert said. “A new aquatic center opened there and the transient merchants parked themselves right by the park and took away business from the concession area. We want to prevent that from happening here.”
Park Commission member and Common Council President Tim Michalak said because the city is spending a large amount of money to build the aquatic center, they want to aggressively improve concession sales by park workers to increase revenue.
“The Park Commission has talked about having more ‘robust’ sales to help increase revenue,” said Michalak.
To increase sales, Michalak said the Park Commission is considering local restaurants or food establishments to sell items through the concession stand at the park.
“It’s still a long way from actually happening,” Michalak said. “But it’s a way to have local merchants increase their sales and have more sales at the park to increase revenue.”
Ray Stelzer, owner of Scoop De Ville — a downtown restaurant and ice cream shop said — he’s talked to one city official about the idea. Would he like to sell his food at the park?
“Absolutely,” Stelzer said. “It could be a great way to increase sales and draw more people to our downtown location.”
Stelzer said he was told bids would likely be sought from local businesses for the opportunity to sell through the park concession stand.
Michalak said the ordinance changes were proposed and approved because city officials don’t think it’s fair for non-local and non-property tax-paying businesses to take money and business away from tax-paying residents and businesses in the city.
“They come and then go while our businesses are here paying taxes and spending their money in this community,” Michalak said.
The amended ordinance allows some transient merchant sales within a park after receiving approval from an authorized city department head.