By Ethan Shorey | Valley Breeze
CUMBERLAND – Adoption of a new ordinance governing the operation of food trucks in town would smooth the process for the mobile eateries to do business here, says Scott Schmitt, head of the Town Council’s ordinance committee.
The council was expected to postpone a vote on the measure at its meeting Wednesday evening, Jan. 15, as officials continue to hammer out the details.
The council previously received good input from food truck operators, including Eric Weiner who runs food truck events all over the state.
Now that such “municipal mobile food establishments” are being licensed and registered through the state instead of municipalities, Schmitt said, communities can essentially implement any restrictions they see fit. If the owner wants to operate in a particular city or town, they must get a permit from that community and abide by the restrictions put on them, he said.
Cumberland officials are looking at fairly standard procedures, Schmitt said, including on fees, distances trucks must be from brick-and-mortar food establishments, legally approved public spots, and hours of operation.
“We’re trying to make it easier to have food truck events,” he said.
The town last summer dabbled in its first series of food truck events at Diamond Hill Park, and the goal this year is to have at least five such events, according to Schmitt.
The state allows communities to charge $300 per day for a food truck event, so the town could in theory charge $1,200 for a four-day event, but this is not a revenue issue, said Schmitt, and officials are looking to relax it to a simple $300 fee for an entire event.
Asked whether holding more food truck events might hurt local restaurants, which pay taxes to the town, Schmitt said he and the board have heard nothing from the restaurant community through the ongoing process.
“I don’t anticipate it will be a real problem,” he said.
The ordinance in its final form will spell out where trucks can set up in public sphere, including in local parks. The subcommittee is discussing requiring trucks to be at least 25 feet from a restaurant, a far shorter distance than the 200 feet that has also been talked about.
Officials are looking to implement some sort of bidding process for food trucks at Tucker Field, said Schmitt, potentially limiting action there to one food truck and one ice cream truck and “auctioning that space off” to the highest bidder. To this point, he said, a lack of crowding and competition there has been based on a handshake agreement. The “primo spot,” said Schmitt, is in front of the tennis court.
“It’s certainly worth something,” he said, adding that he expects there will be a minimum bid placed on the spot.
Asked whether something similar could be put in for regular operational hours at Diamond Hill Park, Schmitt said officials hadn’t considered that yet. If there is interest in Diamond Hill, he said, officials could auction spaces off there as well.
Current rules require food truck operators to get permission from the recreation director before setting up.