KENNEBUNK — Citizens at a Special Town Meeting on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted to strike down the majority of new provisions to an ordinance regulating the practices of mobile food vendors. The provisions had been enacted at a previous Town Meeting in May, and have caused consternation among such vendors and their supporters.

The vote effectively removes all references to mobile food vendors from the ordinance; it now references only to “peddlers,” and restores the ordinance to its previous language, abolishing certain restrictions, and opening the way for more refined regulations for mobile food vendors in the future.

That means next year, residents may face the issue again.

“We basically step back to where we were before we made the changes,” said Selectmen Chairman Al Searles. “There’s no hard and fast rule that says we have to bring this back up at all, but from where I sit, it’s a distinct possibility.”

Among the 20 or so voters in attendance was Barbara Weeman, who operates a mobile food cart, and who spoke out against many of the ordinance’s new provisions at a public hearing in July. Among other complaints, Weeman bristled at a provision stipulating that if an applicant for a mobile cart has been incarcerated for a year or more within the past five years, they will be denied a license to operate. She argued that businesspersons with portable food carts are already subject to oversight by state regulators, and that further restrictions from a town ordinance make it difficult to conduct business.

“The state regulates these mobile vendors first before we come to your town,” said Weeman in July. “I pay good money for my business. The state comes and checks on me to make sure I’m clean and serving good food.”

Other new provisions that were struck down Tuesday include exclusions for mobile food vendors operating within a 100-foot area near a business that’s closed; a requirement stipulating that peddlers granted a license to operate in a certain location will be given first choice for that location during the license renewal process; and a change stating that a mobile applicant’s wares will be deemed “similar” to those of nearby establishments if 40 percent of their products are similar to that of the existing establishment. That change had lowered the threshold from 60 percent.

In discussions leading up to Tuesday night’s vote, Town Manager Barry Tibbetts had defended the new changes to the ordinance, citing the transitory nature of such vendors ”“ which, he contended, could swoop into town from as far away as New York, sell their products for a time, and then vanish, effectively limiting the extent to which the town can determine whether the businessperson behind the cart is reputable.

While the door has been left open to altered regulations in the future, Tibbetts said that future is vague.

“The board ”¦ will maybe be looking at more modifications and bring it back to the voters at some point,” said Tibbetts. “Right now, there’s no timetable for that.”

Searles has noted that a brand-new ordinance could be crafted before the start of next summer.

— Staff Writer Jeff Lagasse can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 319 or [email protected].

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