hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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February 16, 2011

New ordinance regulates outdoor vending machines

Businesses looking to generate a little extra revenue through outdoor vending machines, such as the now ubiquitous Redbox kiosks, will have to pay a fee to the city.

The City Council approved a new ordinance drafted by Building Inspector Richard Osborne that would require any business owner using the machines to purchase a license and a registration sticker for a $100 annual fee. These stickers will last until December 31.

Osborne had said he previously received calls from Market Basket and Walgreens informing him of their plans to set up Redbox vending machines at their Haverhill locations, asking if they need to file any further paperwork. To Osborne's surprise, regulations for such machines didn't exist.

Machines without stickers will face stiff penalties. The regulation calls for an initial fine of $150 for machines found unlicensed with subsequent violations incurring $300 fines.

Currently, Redbox kiosks can be found at the three Haverhill Market Basket stores and the Walgreens at 800 River St. The machines, which stand about 6 feet tall, use a touch-screen display that allows users to rent DVDs, Blu-rays or video games.

Though no regulations for the machines exist at either a state or federal level, Osborne's regulations are based upon similar laws used in other Massachusetts towns and communities such as Bellingham, Mass.

These regulations will not grandfather in any currently existing machines. The ordinance also won't apply to external food or cigarette vending machines which are already regulated at both a state and federal level.

Applications for permits will follow a process similar to that of interior vending and arcade machines with the city requesting approval from the police chief, fire chief, building inspector, wiring inspector and the board of health. After receiving approval from the aforementioned groups, the application would pass before the City Council for a final public hearing.

The Massachusetts Office on Disabilities has expressed concern in the past over the impact such machines could have on sidewalk clearance for those in wheelchairs and accessibility for the blind or those with limited sight.

The City Clerk's office expects the official ordinance application to be available this week. Those seeking to register a machine should contact the City Clerk's office at 978-374-2312.

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