Selectmen defend rules on peddlers
As expected, at their June 23 meeting the Board of Selectmen addressed at length the latest controversy over local peddlers, including Fred’s Franks, the hotdog vendor that had until recently occupied a spot at the head of the Lake.
Several Board members indicated that they had been receiving phone calls and emails from local residents on the peddler issue. One resident, Janet Filoramo, spoke during the public participation portion of last night’s meeting and asked the board to explain why the regulations were changed last year to require the peddlers to move 100 feet every two hours.
Town Counsel Thomas Mullen took the first crack at answering Filoramo’s question. He said that there was a simply a desire “to enforce statutes which have been on the books for decades.” He pointed to the legal definition of hawkers and peddlers as “people who sell moving from place to place or from town to town.”
“Just what that means is undefined in the statute,” Mullen said, “but it certainly can’t mean that you set up shop in one place and you stay there always. That’s inconsistent with the very concept.”
He said that the language that a peddler must move at least 100 feet every two hours “was an attempt to give meaning to that vague statutory term.”
Mullen further noted that the part of the public way that hawkers and peddlers are allowed to be on is the sidewalk, as long as they move from place to place and do not obstruct pedestrians.
“If you’re not on a public way,” Mullen said, “you’re on a lot owned by somebody. I don’t think there is any lot in town where it is not a zoning violation to set up a peddler’s cart, at least not without a special permit. So it’s a zoning violation, and beyond that it’s a trespass unless you have the affirmative assent of the lot owner, who probably doesn’t have the zoning right to assent.”
“The bylaw was always there,” Sheeran said. “It just wasn’t enforced.” She pointed out that the peddlers were told in person at a public meeting months ahead of time that the updated regulations were going to be enforced starting Jan. 1, 2014, requiring all peddlers to move at least every two hours.
Sheeran also addressed the claim that the spot Fred’s Franks was operating on was state land. She noted that the owner of Fred’s Franks was notified by the state in October of 2012 that he was trespassing. He was also notified by Wakefield Town Counsel Mullen that he was to remove himself from an adjacent piece of town property, Sheeran noted.
“There has been no permission given to use that property,” Sheeran said.
Since Fred’s Franks is licensed out of North Reading, Sheeran added, it is unclear whether any meals taxes that he pays actually come to the town of Wakefield. Through the first three quarters of FY 2014, Sheeran said, local restaurants had paid $245,000 in meals taxes to the town of Wakefield. Brick and mortar restaurants also pay to the town property taxes, licensing fees, water and sewer fees and electric bills, Sheeran added.
Sheeran encouraged the owner of Fred’s Franks to work with the town instead of ignoring the town and the state.
“I said to him, ‘You really aren’t a peddler,’” Maio told the board. Maio said that he urged Galasso to work with the town and perhaps a location could be found with some sort of structure and picnic tables. But he advised Galasso that that would still involve dealing with permitting and zoning, just as every other business in town does.
“I think this can work into a success story,” Maio said.
Sheeran maintained that for every person who is upset about recent developments with Fred’s Franks, there are people “who don’t think it’s quaint and don’t think it should be there. Some are more vocal, some aren’t.”
Selectman Ann Santos agreed with Sheeran, saying that she too has heard from people who have lived in Wakefield their whole lives who were not happy with Fred’s Franks but based on the tone on Facebook they are reluctant to share their opinions there. She echoed Maio’s comment that Galasso should try working with the town in a constructive manner.
Selectman Patrick Glynn pointed out that if the town allowed Fred’s Frank’s set up shop on a piece of public land on a permanent basis it would be hypocritical if they then denied other vendors the right to do the same all along the Lake.
“He’s been given break after break after break,” Glynn said.
[This story originally appeared in the June 24, 2014 Wakefield Daily Item.]
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Tags: Betsy Sheeran, Board of Selectmen, Carl Galasso, Fred's Franks, hawkers, Mark Sardella, Patrick Glynn, peddlers, Stephen P. Maio, Thonas A. Mullen, vendors, Wakefield Daily Item, Wakefield MA