Monday, June 23, 2014

Food truck rules back on city council agenda tonight

Posted By on Mon, Jun 23, 2014 at 11:52 AM

click to enlarge Food truck rules back on city council agenda tonight
Young Kwak photo
Jamaican Jerk Pan owner Roian Doctor

UPDATE: The council voted unanimously Monday to approve the new rules. The full ordinance is below.

After a year of open houses and workshops and an anti-climactic meeting last month, the Spokane City Council looks set to finally vote on new food truck rules tonight.

The city's planning department has led the charge to hash out new rules to replace the current outdated and vague regulations — one example: mobile food vendors are technically required to move every 10 minutes. We wrote about the plan last summer and again when the council was set to vote on new rules in May. But, even though city staff said they worked with food truck owners on a new set of rules, when the time came for the city council to vote, the food truck owners who showed up were not pleased. Among other things, they criticized new fees and the city's proposed requirement for food trucks to get permission from nearby property owners in order to park in front of downtown buildings. So, the council delayed their vote. Now, after more meetings, the latest version of the rules is a compromise.

"There were things [city leaders] weren’t willing to compromise on and there were things they were. It was really nice that they were open," says Joile Forral, who owns the food truck Couple of Chefs and is president of the Greater Spokane Food Truck Association. "We do support the new changes."

The previous rules required a fee for each place where trucks planned to park; now, they'll be charged a flat yearly fee. On the larger, messier question of how much say brick and mortar businesses should have over food truck locations, the city will now work with food truck owners to identify downtown building owners who are "food-truck friendly" so food trucks now where they're welcome, Forral says. Outside of downtown, businesses can complain if they don't want a food truck near their building. In those cases, the trucks must stay 50 feet from the entrance.

Forral says she's heard from property owners who didn't want her truck nearby and was happy to move on.

"We don’t want to vend from where we’re not wanted," she says. "We just want to serve good food and be where people want us to be."

From the looks of it lately, that will leave plenty of locations. Food trucks have been welcomed at farmers markets and breweries that want customers to be able to enjoy food with their beer.

If passed by the council and signed by the mayor, the new rules will take effect in about a month.

Here's the full ordinance outlining the new rules (another ordinance on the agenda deals with which city zones will allow food trucks). The latest changes are in red.

Food truck ordinance, June 23

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Heidi Groover

Heidi Groover is a staff writer at the Inlander, where she covers city government and drug policy. On the job, she's spent time with prostitutes, "street kids," marriage equality advocates and the family of a 16-year-old organ donor...