Board discusses RAGBRAI ordinance

ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo

Jefferson County Assistant Attorney Pat McAvan gives his perspective on a draft ordinance that would regulate RAGBRAI vendors.
ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo Jefferson County Assistant Attorney Pat McAvan gives his perspective on a draft ordinance that would regulate RAGBRAI vendors.

The Jefferson County Supervisors debated an ordinance to regulate vendors in preparation for RAGBRAI’s visit to the county on July 25.

After much discussion, the supervisors instructed Jefferson County Attorney Pat McAvan to draft an ordinance which regulates RAGBRAI vendors in the following way:

• Vendors must pay a fee of $300 in the case of commercial entities, and $100 in the case of nonprofit entities.

• Vendors cannot sell within the 3 miles immediately preceding the city limits of Libertyville and Fairfield.

• Vendors cannot sell farther than half a mile from the RAGBRAI route.

• Permits must be filed with the county by June 14.

Pat McAvan said the county did not pass an ordinance before the cyclists visited Fairfield in 2013. He said that the tail end of the route tends to have fewer vendors, and since law enforcement are already busy policing matters of public safety, it might be unwise to saddle them with enforcing yet another ordinance.

Tammy Jones, one of the four executive chairs of Fairfield RAGBRAI 2019, attended the meeting to answer questions from the board and other county officials. Sheriff Gregg Morton asked Jones what happens to the money that RAGBRAI collects in vendor fees.

Jones said the money goes back into the community through grants, which organizations apply for. She mentioned that groups such as Fairfield Park & Rec and Fairfield Little League received grants last year. Priority was given to groups that volunteered during RAGBRAI’s stop.

Morton said he was not for or against the ordinance, but wondered if it would distract law enforcement from more critical problems. He acknowledged that, the last time RAGBRAI came to town, Packwood Road was a mess, full of vendors. This time, RAGBRAI riders will travel to Fairfield from Centerville, passing through the towns of Bloomfield, Lebanon, Douds and Libertyville.

During the discussion, the supervisors and those in attendance talked about safety concerns from having so many new people descend on the town at once. Morton said it hasn’t been a problem, and in his experience, the out-of-towners aren’t to blame.

“I arrested one person in 1997 [during RAGBRAI], and it was a local,” Morton said. “I arrested two in 2013, and they were both locals.”

Morton added that he would like a list of vendors who are allowed to sell alcohol along the route.

Supervisor Lee Dimmitt asked if the county has the jurisdiction to restrict the sale of alcohol on private property, considering the county has no zoning laws. Others in attendance suggested the county could simply deny the alcohol permits that come to it. Dimmitt asked McAvan if the county could do that.

McAvan said the county could deny the permits, but asked what the basis would be for doing so. He seemed to suggest the county would be on stronger footing if it passed the ordinance first, and then used that as a reason for denying alcohol permits that did not comply with it.

Dimmitt said he wouldn’t want vendors on the county’s right of way, but he had mixed feelings about regulating private property.

The supervisors discussed whether they wanted their ordinance to mirror another county’s, such as Crawford County in western Iowa, or the city of Fairfield’s. McAvan said it was best to mirror Fairfield’s ordinance, and then swap the parts of it that were specific to the city with language relevant for the county.

The supervisors asked Jones how much lead-time she would need before RAGBRAI comes. Jones said she hoped the cutoff date would be no later than June 14, because all vendors must be inspected by the state, and she needs time to prepare a list of vendors to give to the state.

The board talked about the fees for vendors. The city’s ordinance calls for fees of $750 for commercial entities and $350 for nonprofits. Dimmitt said that seemed very steep.

“It deters a little girl or little boy from selling lemonade,” he said, remarking that it would be hard for such an operation to break even with such high fees.

Jones said she agreed with Dimmitt’s sentiments and favored lower fees for the county. She said the city fees are higher because they have a “captive audience,” and can expect many more people to stop at their booths. Booths in the unincorporated areas of the county, in contrast, will have a harder time attracting riders to stop.

Bev Nelson mentioned that Libertyville plans to charge its vendors a fee of $400. The supervisors agreed the fees should be $300 for commercial entities and $100 for nonprofits.