Business owners, residents opposed mobile vending in Centennial Park area

The wrath of Sylvan Lake’s Lakeshore area business community was expressed to town councillors

The wrath of Sylvan Lake’s Lakeshore area business community was expressed to town councillors at Monday night’s meeting as they roundly opposed any effort to allow mobile vendors in their area.

Councillors heard the angst and sent the proposed business licensing bylaw back to administration to be rewritten again (last month changes were made to ‘sever’ escort agencies from the bylaw and treat them separately at a later date). This time councillors requested a change to prohibit mobile vending in the area north of the railway tracks, as has been the case in previous bylaws (see separate story for council’s discussion).

The proposed bylaw had provided five town controlled locations where mobile vendors would be able to operate — two parking spaces on 40th Street, two spaces (using three parking stalls) in the southeast end of the Centennial Park lot near the corner of 40th Street and 50A Avenue and one space at the west end of the parking lot on 50 Avenue by the boat.

Led by Steve Pritchard, speaker after speaker — several of them his family members — rose to chastise councillors for even considering the idea of allowing vendors to come in and cream off the profit during sunny summer days, competing directly with ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses selling many of the same products.

He said these mobile vendors would take up valuable parking spaces paid for by local taxpayers but the fees they pay are not even comparable to what businesses pay in taxes for the high priced real estate on Lakeshore Drive.

Pritchard suggested the $1,000 fee a mobile vendor would pay for a season doesn’t compare to $20,000 in taxes by a ‘bricks and mortar’ business. “Lower the taxes to make them both pay the same price,” he challenged.

There were also no regulations in the proposed bylaw on how mobile vendors could adorn their vehicles with advertising or paint them to attract attention, while the town’s Pattern Book specifically states what colours he must paint his building and how it must look.

“The Pattern Book, as a bricks and mortar business, is killing us,” Pritchard stated. “Even the colours of my building are dictated by you guys.”

“With creation of the Pattern Book all you did was put a choke-hold on business, you took independent business right out of business on Lakeshore Drive. You’re left with nothing but empty spots.”

Pritchard also took aim at the farmers’ market, stating it operates on town property, is allowed to put up signs at every entrance to town and various locations in town and because there are so many mobile vendors the street even has to be closed.

Yet he’s restricted to the signage he can use to promote his businesses.

In order to do an expansion at his Big Moo building he has to paint it a colour specified in the Pattern Book. What’s wrong with the current green, he questioned. “Remember the power of advertising … Why won’t you allow it to look like an ice cream parlour. We don’t want to look like a doctor’s office.”

Several residents who live on 40th Street complained about the proposed locations for mobile vendors.

Besides the fact they would be across the street from their residences from early morning to late night, the residents who spoke talked about 40th Street being used as a ‘drag strip’ with speeds far exceeding the posted 30 km/hr. and drivers not bothering to stop at stop signs.

The safety issue alone should cause councillors to pause, said Kevin St. Amand. Children and parents around an ice cream cart or other vendor may not be paying attention to traffic, he said, stating “you’re going to have a fatality”.

Walter Pritchard said restrictions are so great in the Lakeshore Drive area that businesses are moving out. “KFC can survive in Vietnam and China but it couldn’t make it here,” he said.

“The people left behind are usually the small family business that’s sweated through the time hoping it will get better.”

Four years of construction on the road and two and a half years of washroom construction were mentioned as detriments to operating businesses in the area. And road construction isn’t complete.

“We try very hard, put in long tedious hours day after day,” said Muriel Pritchard. “The idea of mobile vendors coming in just during sunny days is unacceptable.”

She questioned how they will support existing business operations and why council hasn’t consulted “the highest paying taxpayers”.

Stephanie Pritchard, manager of Big Moo, talked about the company’s community service, hiring about 85 students and adults a year, supporting the community and children through things like an Easter Party, a May 11th ice cream eating contest which is a fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House, or free cookies and hot chocolate during the Christmas parade.

“On a daily basis people come in asking for donations and we give every single one a donation,” she said.

Andrea Wiseman, owner of Peppermint Andy’s Ice Cream Wagon which operates in Red Deer was the only person to speak in favour of allowing mobile vendors.

Theresa Strasser, owner of Century 21 in Sylvan, said when she opened the business 12 years ago she couldn’t find a suitable office in the downtown area because Sylvan Lake was vibrant. Now in 2013 there are seven properties within four blocks for sale or lease and that doesn’t include the Shell or old hotel sites. “This is a ghost town, not Sylvan Lake anymore,” she said, stating mobile vendors will bring no benefit to the town.

“This is not the way to go, we need to help each other, get together to find any way.” She also suggested lowering taxes in the downtown area.

Ted Iverson, a former mayor and councillor, said this issue goes back to 1983 when he was in his first term. “It’s come up sporadically after that and every council to this point has turned it down.” He encouraged the current council to do the same.

Several other speakers added their support to what had been said.