SPRINGVILLE — At the Oct. 7 board of trustees meeting, the village of Springville passed a moratorium banning transient sales in the village. At that time, the board was given nine months to devise language for a permanent ban on transient sales, within village limits.
Village Administrator Tim Horner said that he hopes that time frame will provide enough time to devise a “good law.”
“That’s why the board gave itself nine months. We want to do our due dilligence to make sure we had a law that is effective and enforceable,” Horner explained. “You can’t just write a law, without the means to enforce it.”
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 busines, 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 fewer 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.
Horner said that the law is intended to protect people from unethical business practices.
“We certainly can’t prevent [transient sales] from happening,” he said. “Bu2t we have to protect the people of Springville from practices that may not be illegal, but which definitely extend into the unethical category.”
At the December meeting, Trustee Nils Wikman presented a draft of a transient sales law to the board.
“I have had battles with myself, over this issue,” Wikman said, after the meeting. “Having been in the retail industry for the first half of my working career, it is difficult for me to look at any regulation that could restrain trade in any way, shape or form. With that said, my first concern has always been a sincere attempt at looking out for my ‘customers.’”
Wikman noted that the village had heard numerous complaints from residents who have been “taken advantage of and the fact that the merchants that they dealt with have now left the area, it has become a problem that we felt the need to address.”
With that in mind, the board discussed a number of possible tenets to include in a law against transient sales.
The law could require registration with the village office of all entities that are involved in transient sales. This would include the landlord and any companies that are also involved in the sales.
“Currently, some of the companies that are dealing directly with customers are ‘ghost’ companies that are working for the ‘advertised’ companies,” Wikman explained. “I feel that a consumer should know exactly who they are dealing with. Exactly what these ‘registration’ or permit requirements will be has yet to be determined.”
Wikman also recommended a bonding procedure, to provide a means to help consumers who become victims of fraud.
“Many of the transient merchants that are coming into the area are flooding mailboxes with contest info, that is intended to get people to show up at their business,” he continued. “The contests are very deceptive and I think we have to look at these items a little more closely.”
In response to concerns brought up by residents at the Oct. 7 meeting, the board agreed that it needs to make sure transient merchants are clearly defined, so that organizations such as schools, churches and the Girl and Boy Scouts can continue fundraising sales, in the village. A penalty and appeal process will also be enacted, to make sure both customers and merchants are treated fairly.
Horner said that the village government is “being very careful” about how the law is written, so that it does not disallow reputable vendors, while protecting residents from fraudulent practices.
“One example of a transient business is, at Easter time, the Fowler’s chocolates that come in,” Horner explained. “We’re talking to other local retailers, other towns who have enacted this type of law, to make sure we do it right.”
Horner said that the village is consulting local business owners, such as automobile dealers, because the majority of potentially unethical transient sales companies are operating within that industry. He explained that the village is “looking at examples of what other communities have done” to make sure the legislation is appropriate.
“This is not new,” Wikman concluded, about the proposed legislation. “There are many such ordinances, across the state. With all of the problems that have arisen in recent months, I just think it is necessary to make sure our playing field is level.”
The transient merchant committee, which the board enacted to look into the matter, was required to report its findings to the board by Dec. 31.
Horner also added that the village is interested in hearing from residents who may have had experience with transient sales operations, either in Springville or elsewhere.
“If any of our residents have any thoughts on this, if they have any experience with these sales, we want to hear how you have been hurt by it,” Horner said. “We want to do our best by the community.”
The village office can be reached by calling 592-4936.