Havre Daily News
Havre may soon ask street vendors to pay $50 for a license to sell their wares.
Last year, members of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce asked the city to impose the fee in order to protect consumers and ensure that traveling vendors contribute something to the community. The Havre City Council Ordinance Committee met Tuesday to review a draft version of the ordinance submitted by City Attorney Jim Kaze.
City Council president and committee chair Rick Pierson said he has spoken with some of the vendors who visit Havre, and many said they would be agreeable to paying a fee to do business.
"The most common answer is, 'We're surprised we don't have to pay a fee to sell on the streets of Havre,'" Pierson said.
Chamber executive director Debbie Vandeberg said chamber members asked her to pursue the matter.
"(Traveling vendors) take their money and leave," she said. "A $50 fee is very fair."
The committee tabled the ordinance, citing concerns about the clarity of some of the language.
The proposed ordinance applies to businesses selling door-to-door or from nonpermanent structures or vehicles in public parks and other public areas, as well as privately owned vacant lots, parking lots and other areas. It also covers business done from any temporary premises, including hotel rooms.
The ordinance would exclude nonprofit charitable or education organizations, permanent businesses and those participating in community-sponsored events.
The committee decided to table the ordinance after questions were raised about two of the exclusions. One would except vendors who sell their own farm products. The other, which excludes vendors who have been in business at a particular location for at least one year, needs to be clarified, committee members said.
The city may need to specify that vendors selling produce must be from the local area, council member Jack Brandon said.
"Does this mean someone from Flathead can come out here and sell their cherries?" he said. "It needs to be reworded somehow."
Kaze, who did not attend the committee meeting, submitted a statement with the draft in which he said he reviewed similar ordinances in Helena, Missoula, Great Falls, Billings and Kalispell.
He stated that the draft took time to create because of concerns over antitrust and equal protection laws. He included a 1991 memo from the state Department of Commerce that cautioned cities against imposing more stringent licensing requirements on traveling vendors than it does on local businesses.
"I apologize for the length of time it has taken me to respond," Kaze wrote. "Hopefully, you can see from the draft that the issue is not necessarily as simple as it may seem."
Council members agreed that, with some clarifications, the ordinance will work.
"I think Jim did a good job," council member Tom Farnham said. "Fifty dollars is a fair fee."