Proposed fee plan could sting McHenry flea market owners

McHENRY – Flea market operators say a proposed $1,400 annual city license fee could drive them and their vendors out of business.

“We may have to move. We’re a marginal business. We don’t make a lot of money here,” said Edwina Nevitt, owner of Fox River Flea Market. “To be honest, it seems like [the city] doesn’t want us here and wants to put us out of business.”

The issue is up for a vote at Monday night’s City Council meeting. Other than zoning rules, McHenry does not have specific regulations governing flea markets.

If passed, the fee will take effect in May. Flea market operators can pay the $1,400 license fee in a lump sum or in four quarterly installments of $350. It also requires operators to provide proof of applicable federal and state licenses before receiving a McHenry license to operate.

Since fall, the city’s Community Development Committee has worked to spell out licensing and operation rules.

The committee initially focused on imposing daily fees on individual vendors, but flea market operators Eckel’s McHenry Flea Market and Fox River Flea Market said imposing daily fees on vendors was excessive.

Under the proposal, McHenry police will have “general supervision over all flea market operations and shall also have power to inspect their respective places of business.” Police, during normal business hours at the site, would have authority to inspect record books, computers, inventory directly related to the purchases and sale of articles.

“Articles which the [police or other law enforcement agency] have reasonable grounds to believe were stolen may be impounded or left with the vendor under a hold order at the discretion of any member of the police department,” it states.

A flea market, according to the city, is defined as “any business activities commonly known as but not limited to swap shops, penny markets, rummage sales, and where tangible articles are bought, sold or exchanged by more than one vendor, not otherwise regulated in the City of McHenry Municipal Code.”

Resale and secondhand shops and garage sales are exempt.

“Right now, we’re struggling as it is,” said Carl Eckel, Eckel’s McHenry Flea Market owner. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. Me, myself, what I earn annually is between $1,000 and $1,500. And then [subtract] the 7.5 percent sales tax.”

Eckel’s McHenry Flea Market, 3705 W. Elm St., currently has about 35 vendors working the site, with space for 50 additional vendors, he said.

At Fox River Flea Market, 3017 W. Route 120, the number of vendors fluctuates between about 40 to 70 throughout the year.

Most vendors are “in it either because they’re disabled somehow and can’t work or retired and trying to make a couple extra bucks,” Nevitt said.

If you go:

McHenry City Council

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday

Where: McHenry Municipal Center, 333 S. Green St., McHenry

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