No NoDa street vendor ban, but businesses still want to pitch stricter regulations

No NoDa street vendor ban, but businesses still want to pitch stricter regulations

Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

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Businesses in Charlotte’s transitioning NoDa neighborhood want to crack down on long-unregulated street vendors.

  • Over the past year or so, tensions have simmered between the increasing number of vendors and established brick-and-mortar businesses. It came to a boiling point in June after a fight, allegedly involving vendors, escalated to gunfire.
  • Now, the NoDa Neighborhood and Business Association is forming a task force of businesses, vendors and community members to come up with a possible solution.

Why it matters: The city’s most artistic area, NoDa is facing growing pains and grasping to maintain its character as new development and new residents pour in. Street vending is woven into the neighborhood’s identity and new vendors keep popping up as the area gains popularity.

  • Once a quieter mill district, North Davidson emerged as an arts destination with drum circles and streetside artists selling original work. Today, vendors still sell art, but tables and racks also display CBD, secondhand clothing and even produce. 
  • Meanwhile, stores and galleries have been replaced with new businesses. Several properties are changing hands.

Context: The city’s peddler’s ordinance allows vending without a permit or license during the daytime. Despite rules prohibiting obstructing sidewalks, the NBA says vendors commonly block accesses and loading zones. The fight to claim a spot has turned territorial, some suggest.

  • In September, the NBA agreed to ask the city to establish NoDa as a congested business district, at least until they could propose a more specific vending ordinance. Those districts, prevalent in Uptown, require special permits to set up as a vendor.

Yes, but: The NBA’s suggestion got immediate pushback. The drafted letter to the city was scrapped.

  • Opponents feared the request would place a near ban on street vending in NoDa and would take too long to replace with a looser ordinance. The process of creating an ordinance could easily get bogged down in bureaucracy.
  • Michael Roessler, a lawyer who lives in the neighborhood, launched a petition against the NBA that garnered more than 1,600 signatures.

“A community or neighborhood that likes to think of itself as a very progressive one seemed poised to do something that I thought would not be very progressive,” Roessler told Axios soon after he put out the petition.

  • After talking to city representatives, the NBA agreed, too, that it was better to initially request new guidelines than establish a congested business district that may be difficult to reverse.

What they’re saying: Jeff Tonidandel — who co-owns Haberdish, Ever Andalo, Growlers Pourhouse and Reigning Doughnuts in NoDa — suggests street vendors should have to follow similar practices as a food truck business. Food trucks are inspected, pay taxes and must follow rules about where they park.

“We don’t want there to be a big turf war,” Tonidandel says. “We don’t want certain vendors to camp out in the same exact spot, every single day, like they own public property. And we want other vendors to have opportunities to be there, too.”

The other side: For years, Jesse Titus has sold his customized clothes near Cabo Fish Taco. When he started, people would walk up and express their interest in also selling in NoDa. He says the scene has “thrived.”

  • Titus says there was a “bad apple,” but that person seems to be gone now. He says he wouldn’t want to see a ban on vendors but is hoping the task force can find a medium ground to concerns, from wheelchair accessibility to appropriate music.
  • “I would like to see people feel more comfortable coming here,” he says.

Zoom out: The NBA has talked to representatives in Boone about their newly established street vending ordinances. Vendors who obtain permits can only set up outside the downtown post office. It also prohibits the sale of secondhand clothes.

  • Boone’s ordinance could be a template for Charlotte. At the least, it’s evidence that a vendor ordinance is one practical solution, says NBA president Krysten Reilly.

Zoom in: Charlotte’s rapid response team could ideally enforce new street vendor regulations. The new code enforcement operation addresses smaller violations like cars parked in bike lanes and litter, which police can’t always get to.

The bottom line: It’s too early to say how stringent the task force’s proposal could end up being.

  • “I don’t want to overmanage something where it really tampers people’s creativity,” Reilly says. She adds, “Not everybody is gonna get exactly what they want.”
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