Village Council eyes street vending
- Published: June 16, 2021
With most pandemic restrictions now lifted and summer in full swing, downtown Yellow Springs has been packed with visitors on recent weekends.
But the influx of tourists has brought a problem: new street vendors and buskers setting up shop and clogging sidewalks.
“There are literally all of these new vendors setting up all over the place,” Council President Brian Housh said at Council’s June 7 regular meeting. “This hasn’t happened before.”
The discussion took place during the Old Business portion of the meeting, held in-person in Council Chambers for the first time in over a year. No action was taken. Council members, however, weighed in on the benefits of a vibrant street life and the challenges of too much sidewalk activity.
“I love that it is fun and great, but we have to have some room on the sidewalks,” Housh added on the matter. “I think there is a true call from the community to look at this.”
Council member Lisa Kreeger said the Arts and Culture Commission has broached the topic, and plans to draft policy recommendations at its next meeting in July. There are positives to consider, she noted.
“Expressions of different kinds of arts on the street help to define the culture and the vibe of Yellow Springs,” she said.
Council member Laura Curliss said the Village should “become more kind to street vendors and buskers” and be wary of taking action to stop them merely because someone complains about their presence.
“It makes me worried that we are complaint driven,” she said.
Longtime local street vendor Rob Fairlie spoke at the Council meeting, saying Village officials recently made him move his jewelry table because of a complaint. Fairlie said he was ill treated by the Village manager, and that prior administrations have been more accommodating to street vendors.
“I feel as a citizen of Yellow Springs, I wasn’t treated respectfully,” Fairlie said of the interaction. “It didn’t feel very fair to me. It didn’t make me feel very human.”
Typically, the Yellow Springs Police Department responds to complaints about street vendors or buskers with the aim of mediating the situation. In Fairlie’s case, police asked him to set up near Asanda Imports instead of where he was located near the YS Federal Credit Union.
According to local ordinances, vendors wishing to sell their wares on public right of ways, including sidewalks and streets, must get a license from the local police to do so. The fee is $25, and the vendor only needs to show an ID. Those from religious or charitable organizations are exempt from the law. Street vendors can operate on private property with the permission of property owners.
In addition, Council passed a street musician agreement in 2014 that requires buskers to set up 100 feet from another musician, move every hour and not interfere with foot traffic, business entrances and public seating. It also asks those with concerns not to interrupt a busker in the middle of a song and be “professional and courteous when speaking to a street performer.” That policy was developed after a series of confrontations between downtown shop owners and buskers, with shop owners accusing some musicians of playing too loud and long in a specific location.
Looking ahead, Village Manager Josué Salmerón said that there is “room for improvement in the permitting process” for street vendors, but did not specify any changes. He said that the use of sidewalks by businesses, such as restaurants putting out tables, is a matter that is already handled by the Planning Commission.
Council members briefly touched on other solutions, such as creating an outdoor marketplace for all street vendors to set up their tables. Kreeger clarified that the idea does not involve closing Short Street, however.
Council member Curliss also said that Council should look at removing other sidewalk obstructions, including those placed by the Village itself.
Housh said that while he wants the Village to be “true to its values,” the vendors and buskers are having an increased impact on downtown.
“We are losing balance in quality of life so I want to be a little more serious about some of those issues,” he said.
The noise of motorcycles, both their engines and music they play, is another issue that has “gotten out of control” that the Village may soon look at, Housh added.
“We have to do something about this. It does affect the citizen and the resident experience downtown.”
Other items from Council’s June 7 agenda will be in next week’s News.