City intern tasked with proposing ordinance on food truck vendors

How and where mobile food vendors can operate in the city will largely be up to a staff intern tasked with researching the issue.
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The Buckhorn food truck is seen along Abbey Street in Winters on August 7, 2018. Photo by Matthew Keys

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has been researching the issues of food trucks over the last several weeks for a proposed modification to an ordinance regulating street vendors. If all goes well, the modification would finally permit, with some exceptions, food trucks to operate legally within the city. The topic of food trucks did not come without some strong concerns from the businesses that might be impacted, something that was noted at the beginning of a presentation Donlevy made before the city planning commission on July 24. “We did receive a letter from concerned business owners about this ordinance in particular,” Donlevy said. It wasn’t clear who sent the letter or what it said — no one at the actually read the note to those assembled at the meeting — but Donlevy assured the crowd that their concerns were taken into consideration for his four-part proposal on the ordinance. Each part came with a level of debatability, some more than others.   One point dealt with limiting the size of food trucks that would be allowed to operate in the city. In one of his earlier drafts of the ordinance, Donlevy suggested limiting the size of food trucks to no larger than 8 feet by 8 feet. But Donlevy acknowledged this was unreasonable because it was roughly the size of a family sedan, and he later proposed to the planning commission that they expand the maximum dimensions of food trucks to 12 feet high, 12 feet wide and 29 feet in length. Those dimensions were not arbitrary: They’re the exact size of a food truck owned by the Buckhorn restaurant, something Donlevy noted in his comments before the staff. “Mobile food vendors are coming in at different shapes and sizes,” Donlevy said. “We wanted to give a general estimate for what would fit, and what’s here is a good yard stick to look at.” But members of the planning commission pushed back, asking Donlevy if he researched any other food truck dimensions and questioning whether wider or larger trucks might eventually want to seek a permit. “I dropped the ball on that one,” Donlevy told the Express during a recent interview for an upcoming profile on the city’s staff interns. A slight stumble, but also a learning experience — Donlevy took the commission’s comments to heart, and he now says that he’s “trying to avoid specific language on lengths” for future drafts of the ordinance. He’s also soliciting feedback from a number of different sources, including the National Food Truck Association, in order to craft an ordinance that will appease everyone. To that point, Donlevy said getting feedback from local businesses who may be affected one way or another by the operation of food trucks in the city is crucial to crafting the ordinance, something his other three points — location, marketability and permits — largely addresses. “We just want to make sure we’re not going in and parking a semi-truck on Main Street,” Donlevy said. “We feel that’s completely unfair to businesses and frankly every one else in the area.” On the other hand, food truck vendors have associations lobbying on their behalf, and Donlevy doesn’t want to stoke their ire with an ordinance that will cause more headaches down the line. “On one side, you have lawyers; on the other side, you have lawyers,” Donlevy said. “You don’t want one of those sides to converge on you.” With the feedback he’s received, Donlevy said he’s moving forward with a follow-up proposal to the street vendor ordinance that he calls “very logical, the way it’s written.” “It’s not favoring one group over another,” Donlevy said. “It makes sense. I can’t wait for other people to read it.”]]>

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