SPRINGVILLE — The village of Springville board of trustees has nine months to devise language for a permanent ban on transient sales, within village limits. In the meantime, transient merchants are prohibited by a moratorium that was set in place at its Oct. 7 meeting, after a public hearing.
According to the text of the moratorium, a transient merchant is defined as “any business that is engaged temporarily in the sale of goods, wares, services and/or merchandise from a temporary location.”
Further, “a business is defined as a person, corporation, partnership, limited liability corporation, limited liability partnership, retail operation and/or any business licensed and/or permitted to conduct business within New York state. A temporary location is defined as “a vehicle, trailer, boxcar, tent, other portable shelter, empty store front, parking lot or vacant lot.”
For purposes of the moratorium, the village considers a business transient if it offers services for a period of less than 30 days.
The moratorium does not apply to “businesses selling vegetables, fruit, and/or perishable food products; businesses selling at an approved auction and/or market within the village; garage sales; businesses operating on land owned by the business; businesses operating a stand or booth at a trade or craft show; and/or businesses selling goods, wares and/or merchandise for educational and/or charitable benefit,” according to that same document.
Springville Mayor William Krebs said that he “had many complaints about transient automobile sales that prey on the most vulnerable of our residents.”
Mike Benson, a local attorney, said that he “will do anything” to stop transient sales within the village, after hearing numerous complaints from residents.
“The real reason is, I hear a lot more of it than you guys. If you don’t stop [transient sales], someone will,” Benson said. “Every time they have a car sale up in the Wal-Mart parking lot, I get the problem and three-quarters of the people coming through my door can’t afford an attorney. Of all the sales I’ve seen, I haven’t seen one good deal. They’re just ripping people off. This community doesn’t need this.”
Benson said that he had spoken to Carl Emerling of Emerling Ford and Mike Johnson of Johnson Brothers and asked them if they had anything to do with the car sales. Both dealerships said they had no affiliation with the car sales.
“I trust [Emerling and Johnson], Benson said. “You know why? These guys have to make a living in this community. They have to live in this community.
“The people who are getting ripped off vote for you because they trust you,” he continued. “I’m begging you; you have to put a stop to this. It’s going to ruin this village. I care about the village of Springville and I have a large investment in it, just like you do.”
Krebs said that the moratorium will give village officials time to word a future law so as not to dissuade sales that “benefit the community,” such as charities and fundraisers.
“We want to write the language to restrict the transient sales in the community that hurt vulnerable residents,” Krebs said. “These businesses are doing business on the free and open market. They’re not invited by the local government. They’re businessmen who see an opportunity to do business, and so they do.”
The mayor added that there are “very few” New York state regulations governing transient sales, but that other municipalities have put laws in place restricting them, but such laws had to be written carefully.
“A municipality cannot capriciously make decisions about land use. It’s against the Constitution,” he added.
Trustee Nils Wikman said that, before he looked further into the issue, his feeling had been “business is business.
“But then, I started getting into the human angle of it,” he explained. “The kinds of things [we found out] started making us think it’s predatory. It’s not an easy problem. We don’t want to interfere with trade, but we also don’t want predators.”
Resident Dave Batterson cautioned the board against “opening up a can of worms.
“Last year or so, [Springville-Griffith Institute] was selling mattresses and that got me to thinking, that we have businesses here in town that also sell mattresses and here we’ve got this business coming into town selling them, networked with the school. That’s another issue,” he added. “But to my mind, they’re all connected.”
Carl Emerling thanked Benson and the board for speaking out against the issue.
“I’ve heard horror stories about these sales,” Emerling said. “These salespeople are really aggressive. They bring professional salespeople from all over the country and run these sales with a dealer’s name on it, sometimes without anyone from the dealer even there.”
The transient merchant committee, which the board enacted to look into the matter, is required to report its findings to the board by Dec. 31. At that time, the board will decide whether and how to enact a local law, restricting such activities. All local laws will come before a public hearing, before being enacted.