By Patrick Wade | News Gazette
CHAMPAIGN — The city council could decide this week if it wants to give more public access to food trucks looking to sell treats on the streets.
Officials launched a pilot program this summer that allows registered trucks to operate on public property for longer periods of time than city laws would normally allow.
Although city officials have yet to say specifically what the changes might be, council members could give administrators the green light to start drafting a new law that is more accommodating to mobile restaurants when they meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.
“I’m happy that food trucks can work with the city and that they’re starting to work with food trucks,” said Zach Ware, owner of the Crave Truck, a mobile “street waffle” vendor.
The existing city ordinance treats food trucks as peddlers — meaning if they want to operate on public property, they have to move to a different location every five minutes or so.
Several food trucks already operate in the Champaign-Urbana area, including Hawaiian Ice and Mas Amigos, which operates primarily on private property zoned for commercial purposes where the trucks do not have to move every few minutes.
And then there’s Derald’s, which operates at parking meters in Urbana on the University of Illinois campus. That city has an ordinance similar to Champaign’s, but without the five-minute restriction.
But of all the mobile restaurants in Champaign-Urbana, Ware’s Crave Truck may have taken the most advantage of Champaign’s pilot program.
Ware said he thinks the accommodations the city has arranged are great, and he hopes they stick around.
However, according to a memo to the city council, food trucks can sometimes conflict with “brick-and-mortar” restaurants.
The two businesses often work in direct competition with each other, and “mobile food trucks do not pay real estate taxes, and their use of city streets and public parking lots might be considered a ‘public subsidy,'” according to the memo.
Sometimes food trucks are noisy, and they can occupy needed parking spots, it said.
The memo also lists benefits, and city officials have said food trucks can add another layer to the downtown and Campustown areas.
“Mobile food trucks often add to the vibrancy and street life of an area (especially an entertainment district like a downtown),” according to the memo, “and provide a festive feel for visitors to the area.”