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Median vendors could face ban in Largo

The city is moving forward with legislation that would boot solicitors from Largo medians.

Largo leaders say they're concerned about the safety of people who sell items on city streets. "(The ordinance) accomplishes what the city wanted to do: Make sure people weren't going to get run over in the street," said Mayor Pat Gerard.

Most city commissioners say they plan to support the legislation. Commissioners Woody Brown and Robert Murray say they also have concerns that vendors can distract motorists.

The issue traces back to earlier this year when resident Curtis Holmes complained that vendors were at risk because they regularly walked into oncoming traffic.

Largo City Commissioner Rodney Woods said he wasn't a fan of the legislation at first because he doesn't want to prevent people from making a living. But he said he will likely support the ordinance, which is scheduled to come before the commission Tuesday.

"I really don't see it as a big major problem in Largo. However looking at the big picture, there could be some safety issues there," Woods said.

The ordinance would prevent vendors, like those who sell the St. Petersburg Times, from going into the roadway to sell items. It would also prohibit the sale of goods on sidewalks, with the exception of newspapers.

Newspaper boxes would be allowed on sidewalks and newspaper vendors would be allowed there, too. But staff attorney Mary Hale told commissioners the legislation would likely deter newspaper vendors on sidewalks as well.

"If you're precluding an individual from stepping off the sidewalk into the street, it's cost-prohibitive for them to want to stand there with a stack and try to sell to that one person right next to them on the road that they can reach from the sidewalk," Hale said.

Alison Steele, an attorney for The St. Petersburg Times, said the legislation would inconvenience citizens, including those who like the ease of buying newspapers from their cars.

"It's sad when local government decides to exercise its power in a way that prohibits local citizens from using public property," Steele said.

In St. Petersburg, the City Council on Thursday approved a controversial measure Thursday banning solicitation in public medians. Under the ordinance, just standing in a median would be banned unless you are crossing the street. The measure affects charities, panhandlers, political campaigns, newspaper vendors, free speech advocates and others who depend on the medians for business or personal use.

Largo's proposed ordinance also restricts charitable solicitation on medians. But state law exempts nonprofit organizations, such as firefighters conducting charitable drives, if they adhere to certain guidelines. Hale told commissioners the ordinance will likely include a reference to those statutes.

Christina Silva contributed to this report. Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or 445-4155.

Median vendors could face ban in Largo 10/04/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 2:30pm]
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