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Saturday, November 17 , 2018, 11:14 pm | Fog/Mist 53º


Santa Maria Council Balks at Proposed New Fee For Park Activities

A new permit proposed for food vendors and people hosting fitness classes in Santa Maria parks stalled Tuesday night amid concerns the proposed fees were too costly.

The Santa Maria City Council referred the new commercial activity and concession permit proposal back to the Recreation and Parks Commission to review the fees.

Recreation and Parks Director Alex Posada said the proposal arose due to concerns about people conducting business in local parks. 

“These businesses range from mobile food vending to instructional classes, dog obedience classes, fitness classes, where these individuals were charging fees to the public and then using the park to profit from that park use,” Posada said. 

Park rangers have noted several vendors selling various products during soccer games and other events.

“Many of these individuals do not have a health permit, do not have a business license,” Posada said. 

Some vendors works for large companies, based in Bakersfield or Oxnard, that bring large trucks filled with carts as workers fan across Santa Maria on weekends to sell items. 

The annual permits would allow the city to better regulate vendors, Posada said, adding costs would range from $300 for fitness classes, $600 for selling from bicycle-pulled or push carts and $1,200 for a motorized vehicle.

Santa Maria city staff surveyed other similar cities, such as Oxnard and Salinas, to establish the proposed fees, Posada said. 

The new permit won’t target regular walkers or others using parks for exercise, he said. 

The permits are a trend across the county as fitness gyms and restaurants move away from the traditional “brick and mortar” building and use public spaces to make a profit, Posada said during the council meeting. 

“In this case, we’re trying to regulate that,” he added.

However, City Council members worried about the cost of the new permits, echoing concerns aired by some audience members.

“I do have some sympathy here that we do have some very hardworking people out there that are just trying to earn an honest buck,” Councilman Jack Boysen said, adding he still supports regulating the vendors. 

“They shouldn’t have an advantage over the guy that owns the corner grocery store,” Boysen said. 

Councilman Michael Moats also questioned the fees, citing the proposed $600 permit for a bicycle cart.

“I wonder if $600 might be punitive for those people and might discourage them for even showing up,” Moats said, adding Santa Maria city aims to be business friendly.

Councilman Mike Cordero agreed, saying, “Some of these fees do seem a bit steep.”

Posada said the city already offers cheaper fees in some cases to local residents and could implement a similar 25-percent reduction for the new permit.

The proposal will return to the Recreation and Parks Commission to consider an appropriate cost for permits. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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