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Tented car sales: Vista council talks 'carpetbaggers' vs. free enterprise system

Councilmember Amanda Rigby: "People being able to buy the product that they need, at a price they can afford, from a vendor that they choose."
Carla Miles

How strange to hear elected officials use a term from the Civil War this evening, while discussing temporary use permits, in reference to those tented car sales which pop up throughout the city.

The verbiage from the dais on the matter included the thought that the council should "protect" businesses in the city, and followed a presentation from City Planner Patsy Chow regarding making an amendment to the Temporary Use Permit (TUP).

The background for the Public Hearing agenda item:

Dealerships in the City of Vista have previously voiced concerns regarding the authorization by the City for car sales "with a temporary use permit on privately owned property," where the occupant/tenant is not usually "engaged in auto sales activity and the primary use is non-auto related."

In the report on this item, found on the CityofVista website, it states:

"At the November 12, 2013 City Council meeting, the owner of Classic Chariots, an automobile dealership located at 1611 W. Vista Way, expressed opposition to used car tent sales held at Walmart for dealerships based outside the city boundaries."

At the next council meeting, December 10, 2013, Vista city staff were asked to "bring a modification forward that would address the concerns raised by local dealerships," and staff made this amendment just to address "this specific concern and to ensure the sales of vehicles remain where they are currently allowed as a primary use." Furthermore Chow also underscored the fact that the amendment sought to "help support our local automobile dealership businesses by discouraging dealerships based in other jurisdictions from setting up temporary sales events in Vista."


Vista Council member Amanda Rigby first used the term "carpetbaggers" to describe those who drive into town temporarily, set up the tents and store the vehicles on property in Vista before they engage in selling the cars.

Since the Vista Civil War Reenactment is coming to town March 8-9, according to the CivilWarAlliance website, perhaps a definition of the term is in order.

The online dictionary at the MerriamWebster website defines a carpetbagger as:

  1. a person from the northern United States who went to the South after the American Civil War to make money
  2. a political candidate who runs for office in a place where he or she has lived only for a short time

Rigby said that the situation is a difficult one for her, summing it up finally in this way:

"People being able to buy the product that they need, at a price they can afford, from a vendor that they choose."

Deputy Mayor John Aguilera stated that he did agree with Rigby, but also believed that "We need to protect our businesses."

Aguilera added:

"I do know one of the biggest things we have been dealing with in the last couple of years is where do they store their cars? That's a big investment for these businesses whether it's BMW, Ford, Classic Chariots. ... You know they have to either purchase property or lease property to store their vehicles, and by allowing these tent sales here in our city you're allowing an outside dealer who may have gone to an auction, purchased a bunch of cars, basically for a week they get to store those vehicles for a really cheap price at Walmart or wherever they're doing these sales."

The councilman believes it is not a "fair" situation.

Tented vs. 'part of the Vista family'

"These tent sales do tend to leave me with the feeling, somewhat, of a 'carpetbagger' coming in and taking away from our long-standing car dealerships," said Councilman Dave Cowles. He also stated that he sees businesses within the city of Vista as being "part of the Vista family" because they not only pay taxes and fees, but they also support the community.

Cowles did not wish to give the tented car sellers an unfair competitive edge over local dealerships.

As for Councilman Cody Campbell, his thoughts concerned consumers who might buy the vehicles cheaply at the "fly-by-night" sellers, but then regret not buying from "legitimate" dealers. What happens when/if they need service on the car? It was a concern he had about the matter.

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