Monday night’s regular meeting of the City Commission of the City of St Augustine will be interesting for Historic City News readers when the City Attorney, Ronald W. Brown, responds to a request from Mayor Joseph L. Boles, Jr., proposing a new ordinance to regulate “transient” vendors.
The ordinance addresses the table-top retailers who have been shuffled from the Plaza, to the West Plaza, and now are found occupying the public area along the south sidewalk between the Visitor Information Center and Orange Street — directly south of the Historic Downtown St Augustine Parking Facility.
“The proliferation of retail vending in public places has created a significant burden and threat to the public’s health, safety and welfare,” Brown wrote in the recitals of the proposed ordinance.
Boles stated that currently unregulated vending creates a visual blight inconsistent with the ambiance of the City’s historic preservation districts.
Vendors using public places to sell merchandise damage the economic interests of other retail merchants who must pay property taxes, lease fees, mortgages, insurance and licensing or permitting fees which the transients currently do not incur.
To enact the new ordinance, Brown says that the commission will need to find that the proliferation of retail vendors of goods in certain public places specifically creates congestion of persons, fixtures, equipment and merchandise; impeding the flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
Where the City has gotten into muddy water in the past is when they have attempted to regulate artists in public places — particularly if they were engaged in the sale of their artwork; however, in this case, the City Commission recognizes that not all items sold at retail in public places contain constitutionally protected expressive content.
“The City Commission recognizes that commercial speech enjoys certain protections under the Constitutions of the United Sates and the State of Florida and that any regulation of commercial speech must be narrowly tailored to meet the defined public interest, must be content neutral, and must provide reasonable time, place and manner restrictions,” Brown wrote.
If adopted, the City will attempt to regulate mobile and itinerant vendors with, among other requirements, a special business permit.
To qualify, it is proposed that each applicant:
(1) Is 18 years of age or older;
(2) Submits two photo identification cards issued by a state or federal agency and two photographs which have been taken within 30 days of the application and which are three inches by five inches in size;
(3) Provides, on a form provided by the city manager, all of the following information regarding the applicant:
a. Name, home address, local address, telephone number;
b. Age, height, weight, color of eyes and hair;
c. Date of birth;
d. Social Security number;
e. State sales tax number;
If you are planning to attend — the regular St. Augustine City Commission meeting will begin at 5:00 p.m. Monday and will be held in the Alcazar Room; on the first floor of City Hall, located at 75 King Street in St. Augustine. It will be broadcast live on Comcast Government TV (Cable Channel 3).