Published September 02. 2013 4:00AM
Stonington - With large numbers of tourists and residents strolling its streets, downtown Mystic can be a peddler's paradise.
But if the Downtown Mystic Merchants Association has its way, peddlers will soon be banned from both downtown Mystic and Pawcatuck.
Last week, Rod Desmarais, the president of the association, appeared before the Board of Selectmen to support a proposed peddler ordinance that could be sent to a town meeting vote this fall.
He told the commission that a growing number of peddlers selling items such as hot dogs have been coming into the downtown area during prime hours and setting up shop in front of businesses.
He said this not only takes revenue away from merchants but can deter customers from going inside their stores.
"We're here all year long and we rely on the business in the busy season. These peddlers are coming in at choice times and take away business from the existing businesses," he said. "It's a strain for us to survive in February if we can't maximize our business in the summer."
The centerpiece of the proposed ordinance is a clause that states, "No peddler shall operate on a public sidewalk or street in front of an established business. Further, no peddler shall be permitted to operate in the downtown Mystic District and the downtown Pawcatuck District."
The boundaries of those areas are described in the ordinance. Peddlers in other areas of town must move to a new location after a maximum 30 minutes and be no closer than 100 feet from their previous location.
Peddlers would be required to get an annual $25 license and would have to show $125,000 in liability insurance. Police would review the applications and have discretion in whom they issue them to.
Violators of the ordinance would have their license revoked and be unable to reapply for two years. A second offense would result in the peddler being banned from the town.
Desmarais said he has received an increasing number of complaints from his 80-member organization asking for a way to stop the peddlers.
He said the town's existing peddler ordinance, which was enacted in 1915 and amended last year to deal with people soliciting money near the Exit 90 off ramp of Interstate 95, has many holes in it so it was easier to create a new one.
Demarais said business owners have worked hard to enhance the "historic charm and feel" of the downtown, which is then damaged by peddlers.
First Selectman Ed Haberek said peddlers could block businesses and create odors from food that could be offensive to the businesses. Exceptions could be made to allow peddlers at special events such as the Mystic Outdoor Art Festival and Riverglow.
The Board of Selectmen will hold a public hearing before sending the ordinance to a town meeting vote.
While the proposed ordinance only affects the Stonington side of Mystic, Desmarais said his group will be talking to Groton planning officials about further strengthening restrictions on that side of Mystic.