In September, a taxi company set up a stand across from Lake Worth High School to pick up riders from the nearby Tri-Rail station.
Their operations center: a trailer attached to a car that was parked on the side of Lake Worth Road.
“We had no ability to get rid of them (although) we did eventually encourage them to leave,” William Waters, the city’s director for community sustainability, told the Dec. 3 meeting of the city commission.
The city wants to crack down on businesses operating in rights-of-way. It says many are unlicensed and unregulated and many are both unsightly and unsafe.
“We’re talking about panhandling. Ice cream trucks,” Waters said. “We’ve even had people doing automotive repair in the street.”
The commission voted 4 to 1 Dec. 3 to institute new rules that would require businesses to submit applications and impose penalties for those who don’t. The panel will take a second and final vote, and set permit prices and fines, at its Jan. 7 meeting.
“It’s not that we don’t want them here,” Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell said. “We want them to play by the rules.”
Commissioner Christopher McVoy voted against the rule. He worried about the city’s musicians and street performers.
“As we’re trying to have an arts community,” McVoy said, “maybe we don’t want to encourage it in great amounts. But we don’t want to totally eliminate it either, do we?”
Waters said performers would just have to get a permit, adding, “right now it’s essentially a free-for-all.”
Commissioner Andy Amoroso said, “we have people that are just there, that pop open a (guitar) case, and aren’t necessarily the nicest people, and end up trying to play music, but they’re really just panhandling.”
Maxwell especially wanted to target unregulated vendors who sell food from the backs of their vehicles.
“I want teeth,” he said. “I don’t want a feel-good moment here. I want teeth.”
Waters said this week permits will vary depending on the type of business, but probably would top out at $100. He said the city’s codes call for fines that can range up to $200 for a single incident and as much as $100 a day for ongoing problems.
Performers who pay to participate at city-sanctioned events, or who are hired by businesses to perform on their private property, wouldn’t be affected.
The rules are separate from those on sidewalk cafes along Lake and Lucerne avenues. In January 2013, the city began cracking down on establishments whose outdoor seating was dangerously close to traffic lanes.