To its credit, the city council is considering banning the curbside sale of goods by temporary vendors. To be politically correct, they are called itinerant merchants. Let’s be honest and call it like it is — a blight on every corner, especially on weekends. 
    {mosimage}Why do they seek out street corners in the mall area or heavily traveled roadways? Is it the visibility, and in many cases ease of access? The marketing people would dub this curb appeal, but again, it is simply another form of blight and denigrates our community image.
    {mosimage}Many of the passersby see it for what it is — i.e., a flashing “buyer beware” sign — and keep on driving. However, there must be enough folks who stop because they have been a part of the weekend landscape and blight for years. Their presence continues to foster the “want to buy a watch” customer mentality for which this community has been branded and which keeps the higher-end retailers away. We can get the big-box folks, but just try and persuade a Nordstrum or Joseph A. Bank site selector who visits here on a weekend to pick an out-parcel near the mall area.
    These itinerant merchants are in many instances from another county or state, so citing them for a violation may prove to be a futile effort, unless the monetary penalty is significant. If the citation is the common civil form, collectible as a debt, the city will have to spend more time and money because they will have to go to district court rather than the less expensive small claims court.
    Any proposed ordinance will need to eliminate an exception in the ordinance that allows property owners to grant permission for the itinerant merchants — otherwise, nothing is gained. How can it be a nuisance if the property owner consents? Why not cite the property owner who knowingly permits the vendor to set up, as well?
    When the debate becomes more public, the city council needs to consider the image of the city as a whole on this issue, and not their individual districts. They certainly should not be persuaded by an out-of-town, non-property owning caller in opposition to the proposed ordinance. Has anyone asked these vendors for a copy of their N.C. privilege license, which if they have one, means they have to collect and report sales tax? 
    As a community, we need to stop and smell the roses on this issue. What can the sale of a velvet Elvis possibly do to improve our image?


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