County regulates commercial activity

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

County officials have taken additional steps to regulate temporary commercial activities, such as food sales, carnivals, festivals and events hosted by charities.

The Board of Commissioners recently approved an amendment specifying what activities require a permit from the Department of Development Services and prohibiting any other temporary commercial uses.

The following activities require a permit and are restricted to the noted time periods:

* The sale of fruits or vegetables, for up to 20 days. On properties zoned Agricultural, Rural Estate or Agricultural Residential, the planning director may approve a period in excess of 20 days if documentation is provided proving that only locally-grown produce will be sold.

* Charitable or non-profit events, permit good for up to four days.

* Fall seasonal sales or activities such as Christmas trees, pumpkin patches, haunted houses and corn mazes, allowed between Sept. 1 and Jan. 1.

* Sales of firewood between Sept. 1 and March 1.

* The sale of any items in association with an existing business located on the premises as a principal use (sidewalk, parking lot or tent sales), permit good for up to 20 days.

* Carnival rides up to 15 days provided no structure or equipment is within 500 feet of any residential property.

* Garage sales may be held up to four times per year for up to four days each time. A permit must be obtained if more than two garage sales are held in a calendar year.

Director of Development Services Scott Sirotkin said regulations on garage sales were put in place several years ago to stop year-round sales.

"We've had instances where people were pretty much having garage sales every weekend if not every day, situations where people were almost operating in a more commercial than residential manner. It's disruptive to the neighborhood in those kind of situations," he said, noting that in a lot of cases, merchandise was purchased by the property owner and then put up for resale which is "not what garage sales are all about."

With the exception of garage sales, at least six months must pass before a temporary use permit can be applied for or renewed on the same property. The planning director has the discretion to extend temporary use permits for up to 10 days provided additional documentation or justification is given. Garage sales may not be extended.

The zoning administrator has 30 days to make a decision regarding temporary use permits, so anyone hoping to host an event should contact the Department of Development Services as soon as possible.

"The issue we've run into is people wanting to have an event on Saturday coming to talk to us on Thursday, and that didn't give us enough time to collect the information we needed to get. As soon as you know you want to have an event, come talk to us and get the process started," Sirotkin said. "Even if they don't have all the details, come talk to us and let us know and we can work with you on what's allowed and what's not and what additional information you need."

With the exception of garage sales, applicants must have the written permission of the property owner and a description of the proposed activity, including the estimated number of customers or attendees per day. They must also have a written plan addressing parking, sanitation, restroom facilities and post-event cleanup, as well as written documentation of any vendors selling food or merchandise. Food vendors must also have approval with the Environmental Health Department. A site plan showing where the event will take place and location of parking areas and entrances and exits is also required, along with written proof of all approvals necessary to comply with other requirements for licenses and regulations with departments such as Environmental Health, the Sheriff's Office and fire marshal.

Events cannot be located within 50 feet of public right of way and signs must be at least 20 feet from the right of way, and cannot exceed 16 square feet, or 10 feet in height.

No alcohol or other illegal activities are allowed. Temporary commercial use permits will not be issued to those who have violated the ordinance within the pats two years.

For more information, call the Department of Development services at 678-625-1650.