Petition against street vendor bill

HANAPEPE — Ed Justus wants to make sure a bill that would allow vending on county-owned property is fully discussed before the Kauai County Council takes a final vote.

Bill No. 2628 seeks to allow vendors, through a revocable permit, to set up shop on county-owned property like roads, parking lots and sidewalks. Currently, vending from county-owned property is prohibited.

Vending on those streets would bring a positive economic impact to the community by revitalizing historic towns, according to the bill.

It reads: “The county has the ability to issue similar revocable permits for limited vending within county rights-of-way, subject to terms of use and mitigation conditions.”

But Justus, owner of Talk Story Bookstore in Hanapepe, believes the language is too vague, which could lead to unintended consequences.

“It leaves the bill open for potential abuse,” he said.

One unintended consequence, Justus said, is a vendor would be able to set up shop in a parking lot next to an already established business. The street vendor’s business could have a negative impact on the brick-and-mortar establishments, he said.

While the bill was written with good intentions, Justus said, it needs to be properly vetted.

“It was presented in such a way that organizations in charge of the Hanapepe Art Night or Kapaa First Saturday Art Walk could control vendor activity on county-owned property, but the language doesn’t say that,” Justus said. “It says the applicant can get a permit to set up shop on any county road. So, if they set up in front of a business, the owner won’t have a say in what’s happening.”

With more activity on the streets, the potential for someone to get hurt is greater, Justus added.

“We’re talking about a situation that affects people’s safety and health,” he said.

Mike Hough, member of the Kapaa Business Association, agreed.

“There could potential lawsuits against the county if anyone would get run over in the streets,” he said. “And it’s not like the county is flushed with funds for lawsuits, so I don’t think we should encourage that.”

Hough said he, too, has questions about Bill No. 2628.

“I’m equally concerned about the use of county or state property without due consideration of how it’ll be used or who would be responsible for it,” he said.

According to the bill, the process for regulating vending should be clarified to distinguish vending between properties under the jurisdiction of the Department of Parks and Recreation and properties under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Works.

Justus said he isn’t fighting against the bill — he wants the public to be aware of what is being discussed and the possible negative ramifications of passing it as is.

That’s why he started a petition against the bill, which he passed out to the businesses down Hanapepe Road.

The petition garnered over 25 signatures last week, he said.

He also has sent information to other businesses around the island, in hopes they will start petitions too.

“This doesn’t just affect Hanapepe, it affects the entire island,” he said.

Bill No. 2628 will be in committee Wednesday for further discussion.

Councilman Mason Chock said while in committee, the bill can be properly vetted and the council can address residents’ concerns.

“I anticipate concerns that have been expressed to be worked on with potential amendments. It is a good idea for the county to consider creating a process to mitigate the current growing issues from such ongoing community events,” he said. “However, all concerns and perspectives must be taken into consideration in passing a bill that will serve all.”

One solution is amending the bill so that it wouldn’t allow permits if a business owner objects to a vendor opening near them, said Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura.

Communication between both parties could curb potential tension between street vendors and business owners, she added.

In order for that communication to happen, Chock said he hopes business owners will come to Wednesday’s committee meeting.

“I encourage all stakeholders potentially affected by the bill to come out and have their voices heard,” he said. “It’s the only way the council can possibly deliver a fair and equitable process to protect community interests and public safety.”

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