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Town of Oswegatchie merchants want tighter restrictions on temporary businesses

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OGDENSBURG — Car dealers in the town of Oswegatchie want tighter restrictions on transient businesses that operate in the town for only a short time before leaving the area.

The town has no restrictions on such businesses, and that allows for unfair competition with permanent retailers who contribute to the town tax base and economy, said Michael B. Sarkin, president of Maple City Auto, on Fine Street just outside the city limits. Mr. Sarkin’s business has joined forces with other dealerships in the town to ask for restrictions on temporary retailers.

The request surfaced following a recent event held by Vision Automotive Group, a Webster-based car dealership that set up shop for 10 days at the former DealMaker Ford property at routes 68 and 37. The dealership has held two 10-day sales so far this fall, obtaining a temporary operating permit from the town each time.

A representative of Vision Automotive Group did not return a call for comment Friday.

There is nothing preventing the dealership from doing business in the township, Mr. Sarkin said, but he and other auto dealers would like Oswegatchie to limit how long such transient businesses can operate or limit the number of operating permits issued in a year.

Town businesses have a hard enough time coping with a sagging economy without having to worry about competitors who are around for only a short time before they take their operation — and money — back home, he said.

“I would rather have customers give their money to my local archrival than give it to someone who is fly-by-night,” he said.

Town Supervisor Alfred J. “Bud” Nichols said town officials are taking the dealerships’ request seriously.

“They’re taking away from established businesses,” Mr. Nichols said. “The established folks have all this overhead, and these people don’t have any. All they do is rent a building for 10 days, and then they’re gone again. It could put our people out of business or some of their employees out of jobs.”

Town Code Enforcement Officer Timothy C. Tuttle said the town’s only zoning regulations cover site plan review. Businesses must get an operating permit, Mr. Tuttle said, but that is only to ensure their premises present no safety hazards.

He said he is reviewing other communities’ regulations governing transient businesses.

“If it’s something that looks like it will work, I will bring it to the board,” he said.

The city of Watertown, for instance, limits the duration of a permit issued to a transient business to three days. Operating longer than that requires a permit renewal for each day the business remains open. Such businesses also are required to pay a tax, post a $1,000 bond before they set up, submit a stock list with the value of their merchandise before they open and report sales activity. Mr. Tuttle said Watertown’s law will be included in his research.

Daniel J. Regan, owner of Regan’s Collision, Route 37, said a restriction would help all businesses, not just car dealerships.

“If it’s automobiles this week, what is it next week?” he said. “They just come into town and capitalize on a short spurt of sales, and then they’re gone. They don’t have to endure any of the service issues. They’re just gone.”

“It definitely is hurting my business here and in the rest of the north country,” said Wayne A. Latham Jr., owner and president of Latham Auto LLC, at County Route 6 and Route 37. “With the economy being down already, we need to stick together up here and stay local.”

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