In hindsight, mailing those 86 letters to York City businesses probably wasn't a good idea.
It's now obvious city officials didn't do enough homework before trying to enforce their new zoning ordinance banning most outdoor vending machines.
The mass mailing dated May 2 informed the businesses they were in violation of the law and gave them 30 days to remove the machines.
Half a dozen irate owners complained at the next city council meeting, demanding to know why their vending machines -- some in place for decades and are far from public property -- are suddenly a problem.
Council members and Kevin Schreiber, the city's director of community and economic development, were short on answers.
Approved last year as a way to improve the city's look and cut down on littering and vandalism, the zoning ordinance prohibits vending machines on sidewalks or in the public right-of-way.
But city officials didn't know even if existing machines should be allowed as nonconforming uses -- much less whether the city had authority over machines on private property.
They promised to look into it, but at that point it was clear the letters were premature.
This week city officials acknowledged as much, announcing the business owners could disregard the letters while they review all 86 cases individually.
The first step is to determine which machines are obviously allowed by the zoning code and send letters to their owners informing them of the determination, Schreiber said.
For example, he said, machines on private property far from the public right of way are likely exempt. But, Schreiber said, even that will be difficult to determine because the new code also bans machines that are "visible" from the public right of way.
In general, the goal of the ordinance -- beautifying York -- is admirable.
But enforcement is going to be much more complicated than it appears city officials first thought. A delicate touch will be required -- not a form letter.
It's how the process should have happened in the first place, rather than a shotgun approach that angered the very type of people the city wants to attract and retain.
Many of the business owners who complained said they use the revenue from the vending machines to pay the city's (extremely high) taxes.
Take it away, and these entrepreneurs might just take their business elsewhere.
If enough of them fled, vending machines would be the least of York's worries.