Port Jefferson has decided to allow village stores to hold outdoor sales -- after years of local officials ignoring the practice.
The village board on Monday voted unanimously to revise the code and permit limited outdoor sales on private sidewalks. Sales on village-owned sidewalks remain banned without a special permit from the village board, because of insurance liability concerns.
Previously, village law banned all outdoor sales because Port Jefferson's narrow sidewalks were thought to be safety hazards.
Mayor Margot Garant said some stores had been holding outdoor sales in violation of the code, but the village had chosen not to cite or fine violators. The new rules enable the village to equitably regulate outdoor sales, she said.
"Right now, it's like everybody is doing what they want," she said before the board voted. "We need to deal with this at some point."
The revised code says outdoor sales "can be an attractive part of the streetscape" and "help business owners attract potential customers." The code limits the size and location of display tables and cabinets.
Barbara Ransome, director of operations for the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, said she supports the new law. She acknowledged that violations of the ban were common among some village businesses, though most had complied with the law because they did not want to carry their wares outside.
"Those businesses that have wanted to have outdoor sales have been having them, and I don't think it's going to encourage other businesses to have them because their businesses don't lend themselves to that kind of sale," Ransome said.
Even as they altered the code, some village officials expressed reservations. Some said the new rules would effectively expand the size of stores, with no commensurate increase in parking stalls.
And trustee Laurence La Pointe said if a store sells too much merchandise on a sidewalk, "you get into flea market pretty quickly."
The board also amended the village sign code by vastly expanding definitions and approving more specific regulations. The revised code is 28 pages -- seven times longer than the previous one.
The new code lists definitions for more than 40 terms -- including 22 types of signs -- and establishes detailed guidelines for sign placement and size. The law applies to new signs; older signs are exempt.