At Tuesday’s county meeting, commissioners stepped away from a proposed ordinance to ban peddlers from operating on county property after an outcry from island residents and visitors.
After hearing public comment that was universally in opposition to the proposed ordinance, the proposal died for lack of a motion to approve.
The ordinance would not have banned peddling on private property.
County Attorney Michael Shuler said the ordinance was proposed in response to growing numbers of requests for peddling licenses on St. George Island, and first-time requests for licenses to operate at Carrabelle Beach.
Commissioner Smokey Parrish said there were also concerns about liability for accidents caused by the vendors.
First to speak against the proposed ordinance was Charolette Bacher, owner of Sometimes It’s Hotter on the island.
She said she favored allowing mobile vendors who have operated on the island for more than 20 years to remain in place. “I do not call these people peddlers,” she said.
Bacher said numerous conversations with tourists led her to believe that the loss of long-term vendors like Doug’s and Dail’s seafood trailers would be a hardship, especially for older visitors who dislike driving across the bridge.
Shuler said the possibility of grandfathering long-term mobile merchants was discussed by the county board in 2009 and dismissed, because of concerns over fairness. He advised against reversing that 2009 decision.
Bacher’s views were echoed by several speakers who described themselves as repeat winter visitors.
Beth Brinkley said she spoke as head of the St. George Island Business Association and representing Resort Vacation Properties. She said she believed the visitors would miss the peddlers and that Resort’s office had received questions in the past when peddlers failed to appear due to illness.
“Guests will miss Doug’s and Dail’s. They are needed,” she said.
St. George Island Fire Chief Jay Abbott said there has never, to his knowledge, been a medical call involving a peddler on the island.
“What about businesses encroaching on private property?” he asked. “I don’t know where a safety factor came into this.”
The discussion finished with a statement by Anna Carmichael, proprietor of Dail’s Seafood.
She said she had collected nearly 1,000 signatures in support of island peddlers in less than 30 days, and more than half were county residents.
When discussion ended, Commissioner William Massey said, “I won’t make a motion because (it’s clear what the people want.”