City may cap temp vendor sales

ALAMOSA — Trying to balance support for existing “brick and mortar” businesses with free enterprise, Alamosa city councilors are considering ordinance changes regarding temporary retail sales licenses.

Temporary sales range from the folks selling piñon nuts, blankets or potatoes by the side of the road to the Nissan dealer from Durango who comes into town with a parking lot sale a couple of times a year and the fireworks vendor who only sells products right before the Fourth of July.

Currently the city limits the amount of times a mobile vendor (other than a food vendor) can operate in Alamosa to 14 days a year and a particular location to 100 days a year regardless of the different vendors using it. The city council is considering also limiting the total sales those vendors can generate here.

The council discussed their options during a recent work session. Alamosa City Attorney Erich Schwiesow and City Manager Heather Brooks said the council also had the option of banning all temporary vendors in town. They said the council could not, however, allow some types of businesses and not others, for example excluding the car sales but allowing the roadside piñon sales.

Schwiesow said that would violate fair trade laws if the council decided to pick and choose who could set up temporary sales and who could not. The city could ban them all or place limits on sales.

The consensus of the council was to limit sales to a total annual amount such as $75,000. Brooks said if the city capped sales of temporary vendors to $75,000-100,000, the car dealer would not likely come to Alamosa because it would no longer be worthwhile.

Councilman Charles Griego said it was important to keep dollars local as much as possible. “People come into our community and take x number of dollars out of here. I know competition is competition, but when you have people trying to make a living it’s tough to make a living as it is and someone comes from somewhere else, that’s money out of here. I don’t think that’s fair to the ones that have built, that have put money into brick and mortar, have their buildings here, employees here … If you let $1 out of here it’s too much.”

Councilman David Broyles asked about taxing internet sales such as Amazon.

“There is a case pending in the U.S. Supreme Court,” Schwiesow said. “Right now, the answer is no.”

Schwiesow said internet sales are affecting the local brick and mortar businesses. “I have the same kind of concern about that … If you can’t tax internet sales, then Amazon has an unfair advantage.”

The council could not make any decisions about ordinance changes during the work session, and if changes are proposed, those will go through a public process during regular city council meetings including public hearings.