Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fruits and Vegetables Exempt from Prohibition Under a Section of Springfield Municipal Code...

for as long as research can reach but answers to simple questions do not exist; Municipal code prior to 1936 lost

The other day I mentioned I would continue to update "JackeHammer" regarding the Urban Garden Task Force and issues related to its eventual goal of providing recommendations for definitions and an ordinance to the Planning and Zoning Commission, which will, in turn, provide recommendations to the City Council regarding how the City will deal with urban gardening and potential sales of fruits and/or vegetables in all districts of Springfield.

I was, at the time, awaiting requested information related to the City Code which task force member Petra Butler had discovered.

Since City Code is written based upon ordinances that, at one time, had their humble beginnings as approved City Council bills, I sought, through the procurement of those past Council bills related to section 98-5 of the City Code, the answer to a very simple question,

Why did the City exempt fruits and vegetables from the prohibition of display on public ways, including sidewalks, that section 98-5 instituted in the first place?

It stands to reason the City fathers had a reason for exempting fruits and vegetables from that prohibition, and since the Council bills of today have an in depth explanation about why City staff is seeking amendments to the City code, I thought looking at the bill related to the change in the code might shed light on that simple question.

Having now looked at bills dated 1978, 1972, 1949, and 1923, I still don't have any explanation about why fruits and vegetables were exempt from that prohibition other than they have been exempt from any such prohibition going back at least to 1923, including the years 1949 - 1971 when no person was allowed to place or display merchandise, "on any public right-of-way, street, sidewalk or parkway" at all, because it was considered as constituting "a hazard to persons traveling on the streets of the city."

In 1923, the Council passed an ordinance that it would be unlawful,

"...for any person, firm or corporation to display or exhibit any merchandise upon the sidewalk in front of it, or their place of business except as follows:

That fruits and vegetables when displayed upon the sidewalk cannot encroach upon said sidewalk in excess of two feet from the building line and shall be displayed upon benches or in crates not less than fifteen inches above the sidewalk.

That merchandise other than fruits or vegetables when so displayed shall not be placed upon any sidewalk a distance to exceed two feet from the building line."

In 1949, in an effort to comply with then Section 6625, Revised Statutues of Missouri, 1939, the display of any merchandise other than fruits and vegetables in the public way was banned altogether.

In 1972, City Manager Don Busch wrote by way of explanation in Council bill 9419,

"Last year a two day sidewalk sale was held in July; apparently it was met with some enthusiam. It is proposed that one be held on the days of July 28 and 29 of this year (1972). In order that ordinance authority might exist for such a sale, the attached ordinance is submitted following the outlines of the conditions under which the sales were held last year."

In 1978, in order to accommodate businesses that had conflicts with the dates listed in the ordinance which preceded it (the 1972 ordinance), the language was amended to read,

"No person shall place or cause to be placed or display merchandise on any public way, street, sidewalk, or parkway, except that fruit and vegetables may be so placed or displayed in front of the premises where sold if not less than fifteen (15) inches above the ground or pavement and if not extending more than two (2) feet into the public way. However, the City Manager may establish not more than two (2) sales periods each year. Each sales period shall be not more than two (2) consectuive days, and the sales periods shall be at least two (2) weeks apart. The sales periods shall be held only during the spring, summer or fall months of each year. During each sales period it shall be lawful for licensed business enterprises to display and sell merchandise upon the public sidewalks in accordance with the following conditions...."

So, apparently, since well before the City of Springfield became a first class charter City (in 1953) there was an exemption for fruits and vegetables from a prohibition of display on public ways, streets, sidewalks, and parkways in the city. There is no indication that the exemption did not include residential zoned districts, however, neither is there any indication that the exemption did include residential zoned districts. The code simply states fruits and vegetables may be placed or displayed in front of the premises where sold.

We can only speculate as to why fruits and vegetables were always exempt, even to today, from any prohibition of placement or display in the public way in Springfield. I think such speculation, taking into consideration state statute, might be interesting.

According to City Clerk Brenda Cirtin, the 1923 ordinance established the 1936 related code, and there is no record of codes dating before 1936.

"I went all the way back to the 1936 Code, fruits and vegetables were exempted out then. We don’t have any codes any earlier than that in our office; I have no idea what happened to them," Cirtin wrote in an email.


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