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Montville - The Town Council on Monday decreased the required buffer between vendors and businesses that sell similar products, an action taken over objections from the town planner, police lieutenant, Economic Development Commission and Planning and Zoning Commission.
In a 4-2 vote, the council amended an ordinance regulating peddlers and vendors by allowing them to sell goods within 500 feet of a business selling similar items, significantly shrinking the original 1-mile buffer zone. Democrats voted in favor, with the exception of the absent Chairman Joseph Jaskiewicz, while Republican Tom McNally and Independence for Montville member Kathy Pollard voted against the changes.
During a public hearing held before the council meeting, many town officials opposed to the changes said they would have accepted a half-mile buffer zone or an ordinance with regulations to compensate for possible traffic hazards.
Councilor Chuck Longton dismissed their arguments, calling 500 feet a reasonable distance and reminding them that vendor licenses still will be at the discretion of the police lieutenant, who can reject them if he foresees a traffic-related problem.
Before the vote, McNally reiterated some of the opponents' arguments and reminded fellow councilors that "you really should listen to the people." By his count, only six of the 18 speakers during the public hearing favored the change.
Representatives from Montville businesses like Friendly's Pizza, Pa's Pizza and Montville Florist told councilors the changes would hurt their businesses. Other residents, including some vendors, said the changes help foster "free enterprise" in town.
"I think the only thing you've succeeded in doing with this public hearing is setting business against business, which is the last thing you should be doing in the Town of Montville," said Town Planner Marcia Vlaun, who urged councilors to spend more time working on a compromise.
Meanwhile, Independence for Montville Chairman Jim Andriote repeated his claim that the changes amounted to political favoritism on the part of the Democrats, whom he said are trying to help former Democratic Town Councilor and hot dog vendor Gary Murphy.
Andriote said he plans to file an ethics complaint on Tuesday against the councilors who voted in favor of the changes.