MORE PEDDLERS? JUST SAY NO

23Apr07

“Anyone who sells merchandise by going either from town to town or from place to place in the same town, either on foot or from any animal or vehicle, is acting as a hawker or peddler. No vendor has a right to a specific location.”
–Chapter 210, Code of the Town of Wakefield

Somebody remind me. Why do we need any peddlers around Lake Quannapowitt?

Last week, the Board of Selectmen drew a long-overdue line in the sand when they denied a license application from yet another peddler who wanted to set up a cart along the shores of the lake and sell sandwiches and other items. The board may not be able to do much about the peddlers who are already fixtures along the lakeshore, but they can certainly make sure that we don’t have to look at more and more of them.

“I think we have enough,” Selectman Albert Turco said, “as far as vendors who are on public property selling goods around the Lake. I don’t want to see this turn into Revere Beach.”

Selectman James Good agreed, warning against “turning this town into a honky-tonk operation.” Good also decried yet another negative effect that the presence of these peddlers has had on quality of life in the town: the ever mounting litter problem.

The town already has three licensed peddlers operating from permanent locations around the lake. There’s a Slush peddler at the corner of Lake Ave., on the lower common. There’s a sausage and hotdog vendor on the corner of Lakeview and North Aves., near Hall Park. And of course, there’s Fred’s Franks at the head of the lake.

Turco pointed out another reason to deny any more peddlers’ licenses. “It’s my opinion, looking at the law, that they should be required to move, and none of them do,” Turco said. By law, a hawker’s and peddler’s license requires the license holder to move about from place to place in the course of selling his wares. Yet the three existing peddlers haven’t budged in years.

To illustrate what a hawker or peddler is supposed to do, Town Counsel Thomas Mullen used a familiar illustration. “Think about the person who moves along the parade route on the Fourth of July selling ice cream,” Mullen said. In other words, they stop long enough to make a sale, and move on.

I’m no lawyer and I wasn’t there when the regulations on hawkers and peddlers were created, so I can only speculate as to the reasons that the requirement that they move “from place to place” was inserted. But I can think of three excellent reasons right here in Wakefield to include such a requirement in the law. If allowed to get away with it, peddlers will stake out a chunk of public property as if it were their own and never budge.

Of course, there’s a reason that these vendors have set up at their respective locations. Lake Quannapowitt is a great attraction. It draws local residents and non-residents by the thousands to stroll along its shores or just sit in a park and admire the view. The peddlers want to cash in on this natural resource by setting up shop and selling to those who come to enjoy the lake. Staying in one location allows returning customers to find them. Besides, it’s a pain in the neck to move if you don’t have to.

Take Fred’s Franks as an example. Arguably the most visible of all the local peddlers, the hotdog stand is located between Col. Connelly Park and the 128 rotary.

With the old Lanai Island eyesore finally gone, commuters coming off exit 40 into Wakefield now have a view that rivals any in New England. It includes the lake, trees, green grass and the distant view of churches across the water.
Lake Quannapowitt
Many Wakefield residents place a high value on the fact that this scene is the first thing that visitors to Wakefield see coming off the rotary, and it’s a soothing welcome home to returning local residents. Since the creation of Spaulding Park at the head of the lake, plenty of people besides me have commented publicly on this scenic gateway into Wakefield.

Unfortunately, what people coming off the rotary now see, before they see any of that, is Fred’s hotdog stand. (By the way, is it my imagination or has Fred’s Franks inched his stand forward since last year?)

In the near future, Col. Connelly Park at the head of the lake will undergo a massive facelift thanks to the Friends of Lake Quannapowitt. I wonder how people will feel about a hotdog stand directly in front of the brand new Col. Connelly Park.

Maybe if they were from Wakefield, the peddlers might understand why a lot of Wakefield people care about this. It’s only natural that residents of a town would care more about quality of life in their community than anyone from out-of-town would.

The truth is, the peddlers do understand the value of the lake and the view. That’s why they’re there–to make a buck from those who come to enjoy the lake and its surroundings.

As a bonus, they get to operate a business from a permanent piece of tax-free, rent-free public land with a great view.

Not a bad deal if you can get it.

(This column originally appeared in the Wakefield Daily Item)

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