CEDAR POINT — The Cedar Point Planning Board declined Tuesday night to enter discussions about changing regulations that allow itinerant merchants to sell political paraphernalia, among other items, in town.
Town Administrator David Rief brought up the issue in the wake of a brief discussion during the public comments section of the June 23 board of commissioners’ meeting.
That night, during a meeting on Zoom, then-planning board member Larry Bragg – he was not reappointed to his slot by commissioners when his term expired at the end of June – voiced concern about what he considered “offensive” Donald Trump items being sold by a merchant in a vacant lot in town.
Mayor Scott Hatsell during that meeting said the sales didn’t bother him and wondered aloud if it would have mattered if the items had been for presumed Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden. The town, he said, had no business regulating those things.
On June 24, Mr. Bragg sent a letter to Mayor Hatsell, with copies to Mr. Rief and the other commissioners, and Mr. Rief gave those letters to the planning board Tuesday night during its monthly meeting, also on Zoom.
In his letter, Mr. Bragg said allowing the sale “undermines the town of Cedar Point and the reputation that we have as a community of welcoming friendly people bringing integrity to the Crystal Coast.”
In addition, he said, “we lose respect from neighboring towns by our lack of consistency in common goals to promote the area as non-confrontational. The current political environment promotes division and separation. Inasmuch as this also appears to promote a political bias in our local government, the potential to encourage new business or home ownership may suffer.”
He concluded by writing, “I'm not against free enterprise and I believe there are many wholesome items that people can bring to our community and sell along our highway but political items should not be permitted regardless of the political party or affiliation.”
Mr. Bragg declined Wednesday to comment on whether he thought his comments or letter resulted in him not being reappointed to his planning board seat.
Cedar Point’s itinerant merchant regulations state the town allows “occasional sales.”
“Under our ordinances, occasional sales can take place on any property in Town,” Mr. Rief said in an email Wednesday.
“An occasional sale cannot last for more than three consecutive days. Occasional sales cannot occur closer than three weeks apart, and you cannot have more than 2 occasional sales within any rolling 12-month period on any individual property,” he continued. “We also require the consent of the property owner, and if the sale is more of a commercial nature than a traditional yard sale, we require an itinerant merchant permit.”
Those conditions were met, Mr. Rief said.
Some other towns are more stringent. Emerald Isle, for example, does not allow itinerant merchants on any public streets.
According to its ordinance, the Emerald Isle does allow “satellite merchants,” such as street vendors, to set up “on the private property of an ocean fishing pier, hotel, motel, campground, recreational vehicle park, or condominium complex having frontage on the Atlantic Ocean,” but not on the beach.
The Emerald Isle ordinance does not state what can or cannot be sold at those locations, but the town application form does ask that question.
During the Cedar Point Planning Board meeting, Chairperson Jennifer Heironimus said the town did everything correctly in allowing the sales and the town doesn’t base decisions on a “political belief system.”
Vice Chairperson T.J. Williams said people “don’t have to buy it if they don’t like it. If you’re offended, don’t look at it.”
Mr. Rief said the town can’t make decisions based on the “nature of what is shown on flags or bumper stickers.”
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.