A proposed ordinance change that would make it easier for brick-and-mortar retailers to host outside vendors has been recommended by Bedford Borough Council’s ordinance committee.
Councilman Patrick Neff, chairman of the committee, said during the borough’s meeting Monday night that the three-member committee is in favor of allowing retailers to host vendor events without the need for each vendor to acquire a transient retail license.
“I know from my conversations with the rest of the committee, we all want to make it possible,” Neff said. “So if we have to change the ordinances, we want to do that.”
The ordinance change was proposed by the owners of Olde Bedford Brewing and Wholesome Living, neighboring establishments on Railroad Street, in November after the borough had shut down a gathering they had hosted in their parking lot the prior month.
That event caught the attention of borough officials because none of the about 10 vendors had the appropriate transient retail license, which is required for transient vendors to operate on private property within the borough.
Dave Heller, owner of the brewing company, at the time proposed removing the transient license requirement for vendors operating on private property of merchants, citing a high cost for small craft vendors under the current regulations. He instead proposed a new permit that would be made by merchants with brick-and-mortar establishments for a much lower fee.
The borough’s transient retail license is $300 for a week, $600 for a month or $750 for a year.
The issue has spurred some debate between borough officials and the property owners in the past. Borough Manager Barbara Diehl said there was some confusion about what was permitted by the current borough code, particularly after the borough had permitted Founder’s Crossing to host an outdoor event in its parking lot.
Councilman Jeff Rinscheid noted that establishments with indoor vendors who operate through the store’s single point of sale are permitted to move those vendors outdoors. However, establishments cannot bring in external vendors to operate without the transient license.
Borough solicitor Dean Crabtree was instructed to develop a draft ordinance to be discussed at a public meeting.
Building work continues
Diehl also updated council on the borough’s $3.3 million building renovation project. The work is expected to be completed sometime before the end of June, and borough officials hope to move into the building in July.
The project was originally scheduled to be completed in April, but has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Diehl noted the contractors still are having employees needing to miss time due to quarantine guidelines.
But the borough has not come to an agreement with the general contractor, Mid State Construction of Altoona, about a new completion deadline.
Borough officials will meet with the contractor on Wednesday to discuss setting a completion date for the work. Diehl said the contractor did not sign off on an initial change order request that would have set that date for May 31.
The borough administrative offices and police department have been operating out of the Bedford Ambulance building across Penn Street throughout the work. Diehl noted the borough has budgeted to remain in the ambulance building through the end of June.
“If we’re forced to stay here in the ambulance building through the end of July, then I would expect reimbursement costs back for the monthly rent,” she said.
Council is scheduled to tour the building at its upcoming workshop meeting later this month. Diehl told the council members they will be “pleasantly surprised” by the renovations made since their last tour.