Vendors not permitted to sell at Ligonier Town Hall
A local vendors' group did not receive Ligonier Borough Council's blessing to sell their products at the Town Hall community room.
At a June 12 meeting, Councilman Jim McDonnell explained that Ligonier Vendors had applied to hold several events there so that vendors could set up tables and sell their wares, with Ligonier Vendors charging $60 per table.
According to the group's Facebook page, some of its participating vendors include Tastefully Simple, Scentsy and Thirty-One Gifts.
McDonnell saw the borough as “functioning here as a conduit to promote a commercial business in Town Hall without permits,” adding that he does not feel Town Hall's purpose is to hold commercial events.
“The application for the use of the community room is for civic, nonprofit groups,” he said.
Requests to hold commercial events in the room creates a “sticky wicket” for borough employees, McDonnell said, and he believes solicitor George Welty should look into the matter.
“I think it deserves to be investigated, and I think it needs to be discussed,” McDonnell said.
The cost to rent the room is $250 with an additional custodian fee, McDonnell said.
Welty said the rental application states that council reserves the right to reject any contracts for the use of the facilities.
Council voted 5-0 to reject the group's request. Council members Judy Hoffer and Matthew Smith were absent.
McDonnell said some of the requested dates coincided with Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce events, and as far he knows, the vendors are not members of the chamber. “I've been told it's not sitting too well with our retailers, and I can understand that,” he said.
Cindy Purnell, who owns The Post and Rail Shop on the Diamond with her husband, said the group is “taking advantage of the time, money and effort that the chamber has done for their benefits.”
Catherine Crawford, who owns The Toy Box, said the vendors should have to pay the same overhead costs that chamber retailers pay if they want to sell in Ligonier.
Chamber of Commerce director Holly Mowrey said, “It is the decision of borough council to approve the uses and established policies for the community room in Town Hall. I can understand that local business owners may have a concern when they pay taxes and overhead to operate their businesses in the borough of Ligonier.”
Mary Carlson, a representative from Ligonier Vendors, said the group is “about supporting the local community and putting small businesses in the spotlight.”
“We were misled upon renting the Town Hall, which we did to benefit the town to give them the money over another venue, because not once out of the four times we rented a date were we told that we could not because we were not an official nonprofit or civic group,” she said. “We gave the information about what type of event and who we, promoters, were and were given the green light. We have been advertising the event and trying to bring more people to Ligonier to help support all the businesses here, as well as draw more people into town for the other events taking place. The more happenings going on, the more visitors will come. We are sick over this being taken away as we were doing something great for the town, but will sleep good at night knowing we are doing the right thing. It's a real shame to all of the other people that can no longer rent the facility, that has in the past, due to others complaining over a cause that is designed to help the community.”
In other business, council discussed a protest letter from Donald and Kim Kramer, who purchased a property along East Main Street in the C-2 commercial district, regarding a conditional use hearing.
According to secretary Paul Fry, the Kramers plan to open a financial advisory business, Legacy Wealth Solutions.
The Kramers did not attend the meeting.
Fry said the Kramers have been working with zoning officer Merle Musick to make the building comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Uniform Commercial Code requirements and recently filed for a permit application for professional office use. Professional office use is a conditional use in the district, so Musick told them they had to apply for a conditional use.
In their letter, the Kramers stated that they believe that requiring a conditional use hearing for professional offices in the commercial district seemed like “an obvious mistake” in the zoning ordinance, adding that the process will further delay construction at their property. They filed for the conditional use, though, under protest.
Council members agreed that filing the application under financial services would have been a more accurate description of the Kramers' plans, rather than professional office use. Financial services are permitted in the district and do not require a conditional use.
Welty said Fry will meet with the Kramers and Musick to discuss possibly amending the application.
Welty said, since adopting its revised zoning ordinance in 2010, the borough has received more conditional use applications than in previous years. The planning committee recently suggested that Environmental Planning and Design LLC, which worked on the ordinance, provide a gratis review of the document.
Additionally, council unanimously approved a parking permit ordinance that establishes rates for metered street parking permits for residents who have no off-street parking at their homes. The cost is $20 per month with a 10 percent discount if paid one year in advance and $15 per month for residents over age 70, with a 10 percent discount if paid one year in advance.
The next meeting is 7 p.m. July 10.
Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or firstname.lastname@example.org.