By David Reevely | Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA — Chef and new food-truck operator Ben Baird is looking for a new place to park his truck now that he’s been told to have it out of the driveway of his house by July 5.
Baird’s been running his big blue “Ottawa Streat Gourmet” truck at a prime spot at Queen and O’Connor streets since mid-May, when the city government proudly loosened its rules that had practically restricted street food to basic chip trucks and hotdog carts for decades. He’s parked the truck at his home near Riverside Drive and Walkley Road after clearing it with his neighbours.
“I pull it snug up as far as I can. So about three feet of it is showing to my neighbourhood,” he said Thursday afternoon, after being told he’s going to have to stop. “It’s not hanging over the sidewalk or anything like that — it’s definitely out of the way.”
He cleared it with his immediate neighbours first, he said, over dinner at his sit-down restaurant, the Urban Pear in the Glebe. But he’s plain that the truck is big enough to violate the bylaw restricting the size of vehicles that can be parked in a residential driveway. “I guess the maximum length of a truck in a driveway is six metres and I’m beyond that by about eight feet.”
Another neighbour (Baird doesn’t know who) complained and he got a visit from a bylaw officer.
“I said look, I’m actively looking for a warehouse, I need more kitchen space — I don’t want to keep it in my driveway in the winter, that would be a disaster for snow removal — but I don’t have one now, and they said OK, as long as you’re working on it, we can be accommodating,” Baird said. He’s looking at half a dozen possible places as soon as Monday, he said; he needs an RV-like electrical plug-in to keep his fridge and other equipment powered overnight and he doesn’t know yet that he’ll be able to find that in a location that’ll be available immediately.
The way Baird tells it, the bylaw department’s generosity ended when the neighbour complained again to their councillor, Maria McRae: he’s been told to find a new place for the truck by July 5 or face bylaw charges.
McRae said she just passed along the complaint to the bylaw department, as she’s supposed to do. “I would expect that anybody who is not complying with the bylaw, if they’re willing to work with the bylaw department to achieve compliance, that our bylaw department would work with that person. It’s a win-win for everybody,” McRae said.
If Baird were selling food on his residential street, that’d have to be stopped right away, she said. If it’s just a matter of parking, there should be some wiggle room, she said.
The city bylaw department’s general manager Susan Jones said there is some, just not as much as Baird wants.
“We had an officer go out and investigate and try to work with the individual to comply. He’d asked to be able to leave it there till the end of the summer. We took that back and reviewed it and we said no, that’s too long,” Jones said. “You can’t leave it there till Sept. 1. I mean, we’re reasonable, we’re flexible, but no, you can’t leave it there that long.”
Jones reluctantly acknowledged that a fine is the next step if he can’t find a proper parking spot soon, but she doesn’t think it’ll come to that.
“Ottawa’s a big city,” she said.