ANTIGONISH, N.S. - A close four-to-three vote in favour saw Antigonish Town Council pass a new vending bylaw, during its May 28 regular monthly public meeting.
Voting in favour were Mayor Laurie Boucher as well as councillors Mary Farrell, Willie Cormier and Donnie MacInnis. Voting against were Deputy Mayor Diane Roberts and councillors Andrew Murray and Jack MacPherson.
Speaking during the discussion prior to the vote, MacPherson said he was concerned the bylaw didn’t do enough to protect existing, permanent structure businesses, which “pay taxes year-round.”
He reiterated that thought when speaking to reporters after the meeting.
“The issue I had with it is the fact the parking meters are very important to the business people who have a parking meter directly out front and they pay taxes all year; these portable vendors will be able to go where there is a parking meter, pay for the meter, $500, and stay there for the summer,” MacPherson said, adding he was hoping the bylaw would include more restrictions on where portable vendors could set up.
“Rather than 90 feet away from a business that is selling the same product; I don’t think that’s fair to the small business people,” he said.
Acknowledging that the new bylaw doesn’t provide any new advantages to portable vendors, basically just continuing what had been previously, MacPherson said he was encouraged that revisiting the bylaw would have meant changes he felt were important and necessary, for existing businesses.
“That’s why I was agreeing to have this bylaw changed; there were so many things in it I disagreed with already, and they’re still in there,” he said. “If we changed the bylaw to the way I think it should be, I would vote, definitely, for that.”
As she voted against, Deputy Mayor Roberts pushed to have it sent back to the police and licensing committee, for a further look
Mayor Boucher addressed that when talking to reporters after the meeting.
“It had already been to police and licensing, for us to send it back there would delay it, not just a month, maybe two months, so, as I said earlier, I think it’s important to have in place the proper direction for our bylaws officer to follow,” she said.
Boucher said there really isn’t much new in the bylaw.
“The only thing that made us go back and look at it was the ability for a vendor to set-up on private property and not have to pay [a fee]; it doesn’t create an even playing field for everybody, so we asked staff to go back and look at that,” she said.
“You can go on private property with permission but, now, you still have to abide by the registration fees with the town, before you didn’t have to. You didn’t have to pay the town, you probably rented from that property owner, but you didn’t have to pay the vending fee ($500).”
Boucher was asked about the split between council on the bylaw, as evidenced by the narrow vote.
“I would call it people having a difference of opinion,” she said, rejecting a reporter’s suggestion of the term ‘contentious.’
“I think it’s a good bylaw and, as councillor Cormier said, we can always go back and change it if there is something wrong with it; but we wanted to get something in place before people started to apply.”
Boucher said there have been people inquiring about portable vending opportunities in town but “not much on paper” yet.
“I think it’s imperative that we did pass it tonight and we did, so that’s good,” she said.
“I really don’t know if we did appease them [‘nay’ voting council members] but I think they can be reassured in the sense that it’s a living document, we have the ability to change it if it’s not working.”
For a complete look at the bylaw, including all the terms and conditions which must be meet by applicants, visit the town’s website at townofantigonish.ca.