‘Asking for someone to sue you’

Wiscasset panel questions part of early draft on business rules
Tue, 06/09/2015 - 6:45pm

    Would-be rules for using Wiscasset’s town common drew some early concern from the ordinance review committee on June 8.

    Committee members expressed their discomfort with some of the wording on amendments that Town Planner Jamel Torres said selectmen and Town Manager Marian Anderson have requested for temporary businesses on the common.

    Torres said he would seek advice from Maine Municipal Association (MMA) on the wording that came out of a staff meeting and was reviewed by all department heads.

    Torres on Tuesday, June 9, said he was fine with the wording but would seek the legal advice from MMA due to the committee’s comments.

    The initial draft that the committee looked at Monday night called for selectmen to have the authority to deny a temporary business license on the town common if it would be detrimental to the public health, safety or general welfare of the residents in the community.

    “That’s just asking for someone to sue you, big time,” Committee Chairman Karl Olson said. Torres described the wording as a little subjective.

    “I think it’s terribly subjective,” Olson said. It calls for a moral judgment, he said.

    Members discussed possible alternate wording that would limit the common’s use to community events such as concerts and Summerfest. Member Larry Lomison cautioned against getting into a lot of specifics. “The more we stretch, the more we open it up .... It’s not for any business except community,” he said.

    The selectmen’s interest in updating the rules followed recent requests from businesses including a tarot card reader, Torres said.

    Selectmen on May 19 opposed a pair of requests for temporary business licenses on the common, one for the tarot reader; the other, a hot dog vendor. At the time, Vice Chairman Ben Rines Jr. pointed out that town rules called for the code enforcement officer to approve or deny temporary business requests.

    In addition to the possible ordinance changes regarding businesses on the common, other changes being considered would apply to other temporary businesses in town. A request to have a business longer than 15 days would go to selectmen; the code enforcement officer would decide on requests for 15 days or fewer.

    Also June 8, committee members reviewed proposed new rules that Torres said town staff were seeking on local business licenses, including a possible $75 fee every three years. Currently, businesses register with the town clerk, at no charge, Torres said.

    No committee members expressed support Monday for adding the fee. If there is a fee, Olson said it should reflect the costs of handling the license, or give the business some benefit.

    In another proposed rule change, the town clerk would submit licenses to selectmen to approve or deny. A license would have to be approved if the proposed business met the town’s ordinances, Lomison said.