Proposed Ordinance Ambiguous About Charging A Fee For Exhibiting Art

Ordinance 2445 is an amendment to an existing borough code that deals with “Peddlers, Canvassers and Transient Merchants” and will now include artists and fees charged for one-day borough-sponsored events.

At issue is language in the proposed ordinance that reads:

“No person who is participating in a Borough sponsored event shall engage in the business of selling or displaying art, without first paying a license fee . . .”

It has been reported that Doreen Cali, the Borough Clerk, has read the law to mean that anyone who is displaying art is to pay a license fee. No word has been determined by the Borough Attorney, Richard Huxford, as to the official legal position of the municipality regarding whether or not someone simply displaying art will be required to pay $60. He was not able to respond in time for this article.

The specific wording, when broken down, reads that no person shall engage in the business of selling art nor engage in the business of displaying art without paying a fee. The interpretation from the clerk appears to be that someone who is simply displaying art – an individual – is the same as someone in the business of doing so – as in a professional art gallery or professional art curator. This is reinforced in the subsequent section of the same paragraph that reads:

“Any person who shall engage, pursue or carry on any such business or any person who shall sell or offer to sell art of any kind or description whatsoever, (only at any Borough Sponsored event) without first paying a license fee therefor [sic], as in this section provided, shall be deemed guilty of a violation of this section.”

The reason given for the proposed ordinance was to prepare the borough for its first Arts in the Street Festival which is sponsored by the Borough as a result of the initiative from a group of residents called RP Loves ARTS. Under the existing borough code, peddlers, canvassers, and transient merchants are required to pay a fee of $100. The fee in ordinance 2445 was lowered to $60 in order to help with fees for participants but the impression was that the fee would apply solely to those artists who are selling their work. It was understood that it would not apply to those who simply wish to exhibit their collection, similar to an artist exhibit at the Roselle Park Art Gallery located in the Casano Community Center on a monthly basis or even an exhibitor at the upcoming Bridal Expo – another one-day Borough-sponsored event; there is no fee for participating in that event.

Additionally, in May of 2011 artists displayed their works on the lawn of the Roselle Park Library as part of a borough sponsored Roselle Park Day without any license fees apparently required. An OPRA (Open Public Records Act) request will be submitted to confirm that licenses were not required by those artists for doing the very same thing some artists are planning to do in September.


Another question that such a proposed law brings up has to do with charging an artist to simply act on their constitutional right to express him or herself without engaging in a sale. At most, a permit would be required but no payment. It should be noted that other vendors – such as those for things other than traditional canvas, two-dimensional, or sculptured art – will be required to pay the $100 license fee for this event.

Ordinance 2445 is being discussed and voted on tonight by the governing body. Before the vote there is a legally required public hearing that will allow residents to ask questions, make suggestions, and comment on the proposed law without the restriction of a time limit.

Tonight’s Mayor & Council meeting is schedule for 7 p.m. in Borough Hall.

A copy of the ordinance, in its entirety is available below:

Download File (PDF)