As it works with the city staff to develop a code for conditional uses, the Westerville Planning Commission is discussing how to best address transient vendors, such as food trucks and T-shirt vendors.

As it works with the city staff to develop a code for conditional uses, the Westerville Planning Commission is discussing how to best address transient vendors, such as food trucks and T-shirt vendors.

Westerville's planning staff presented new policies to the planning commission at its August meeting, proposing regulations for food trucks, farmers markets, plant nurseries, Christmas tree lots and pumpkin lots.

At the time, Westerville planning administrator Rich Kight said the city did not have rules aimed toward those uses, leaving the city's staff to try to apply other parts of the code to help regulate them.

The planning commission continued discussion on the proposed code at its Sept. 22 meeting, with members mostly agreeing on language that would limit the allotted time for seasonal sales, such as Christmas tree lots, and that would designate where in the city they could be set up.

Commission members did debate, however, how to handle transient vendors.

Member Matt Whitehead said the city should lay out exactly what types of vendors and sales are and are not permitted in Westerville.

"We need to be specific here," Whitehead said. "We're still missing a key element of what we're trying to get out of these types of sales and regulations."

But member Brian Szuch said that type of specificity could be dangerous, because other types of undesirable vendors not listed in the code could set up shop.

"As far as trying to keep out particular uses, I just think that's a very dangerous thing because we're never going to think of them all," Szuch said.

However, he said simply having a process through which vendors would have to seek permission to set up shop in Westerville likely would weed out any questionable vendors.

"Just the fact that they have to go through this process they'll go to Columbus; they'll go somewhere else," Szuch said. "I think this handles itself."

Assistant city prosecutor Kyle Stroh said his concern is that with no regulations in place, once Westerville allows transient vendors in, it will be difficult to kick them out or to limit their numbers.

He pointed out that the proposed code does not limit how long vendors can be set up within the city, other than to require a new permit every year. He said the code also does not limit how many vendors can be set up in one location.

"I think the transient vendor thing opens a can of worms," Stroh said. "I'm not sure once they're in, how I could get them out legally.

"I'm not comfortable with how it's drafted. I'm just concerned with how we get the lid back on the cap if we don't like what we attract."

Before bringing the code changes before the planning commission for a vote, city planner Lisa LaMantia said the staff would like to know whether the city wants to permit transient vendors to operate in Westerville.

"We need to know: Are these things we want to allow in the city? That's what we're trying to find out," LaMantia said. "We can say no."

Though the city staff had hoped the planning commission would vote on the proposed code at the Sept. 22 meeting, it instead decided to delay further discussion on the issue until the November meeting.

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