Vending codes approved in 7-hour session

In a marathon seven-hour session dominated by four hours of public hearings, Historic City News watched as the St. Augustine City Commission approved four ordinances and advanced a fifth to adjust city regulations to conform to court rulings.

The city regulations affected dealt with visual arts, vending, and parades.

Semantics brought seething from visual artists on the ordinance restricting vending activities in the Plaza to twelve spaces in the market building.

Special City Counsel Michael Kahn, a First Amendment attorney, had recommended “First Amendment expressive” be changed to “Street Performer” activity, lumping visual artists with singing, dancing, and other street entertainment.

“I’m a painter and sculptor,” Richard Childs raged at commissioners. “I don’t sing and dance while I’m painting and sculpting!”

Kahn argued the semantic change will make the new ordinance more defensible in court by linking it to the St. George Street performer ordinance, successfully defended in court nine years ago.

But the change brought a new round of discussion that guitars, drums, and one-man bands will occupy half the market building; clashing with each other and creating a congestion of onlookers.

The $75 a month fee for successful bidders for the twelve market building spaces was also challenged as commissioners noted clean-up costs for vagrants relieving themselves in the area during the night.

City Attorney Ron Brown said the daytime space winners can’t be charged for vagrant actions, but City Manager Bill Harriss said shrubbery around the building will be removed to make it more visible and reduce such actions.

The remaining ordinances passed with little public comment – to prohibit vending along St. George Street and remove a previously added provision for parades on that street; to rescind the previous Plaza vending ordinance, and to prohibit food and beverage sales on public ways throughout the city.

The new rules take effect September 24, with the first month of lottery-selected activity in the market building beginning in October.

The new ordinance, reinstating elsewhere in the code the St. George Street parade provision removed by one of the four ordinances, faces public hearing at the regular city commission meeting scheduled for September 28th.

It would assure that annual events, including British Night Watch, Spanish Night Watch, and Drake’s and Searle’s raids can continue along St. George Street.

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