By Sarah Page Kyrcz | Shore Line Times
GUILFORD >> Taqueria Cinco has occupied a prime piece of real estate on Boston Street/Route 146 for about a year. That is until recently when the Guilford Police Department informed owner Nicolas Cervente that he did not hold the proper permits.
The Guilford Police Department and the selectman’s office received complaints about Taqueria Cinco conducting business on the south end of the green, across the street from Vera Wolfe and Evergreen Gallery.
“We were getting a lot of pressure from the business owners and normal citizens who felt that this was the historic district in town and this truck, or trucks, there were others, didn’t belong there,” said First Selectman Joseph Mazza.
Taqueria Cinco is a family owned business with one other food truck located on School Street in Madison.
Nicolas Carvente runs the Madison location, while his brother, Beto Carvente, and Irma Janani, are responsible for the Guilford location.
“There’s a mix of complaints regarding noise,” said Police Chief Jeff Hutchinson, “and it wasn’t always his truck, because there’s other trucks there.”
About seven permits have been issued to various food trucks, he said.
“We did a lot of work in the form of research,” said Mazza. “We looked at other town ordinances, we dealt with CCM, Conference of Connecticut Municipality and saw what other towns, how they dealt with it.”
Upon investigation of these complaints it was determined that due to the location of the food trucks the state needed to be consulted on the issue. Hutchinson was in touch with the state Department of Transportation, Office of State Traffic Administrator.
“The unique thing about the green is three sides of it are state road, Boston Street, Whitfield Street and half of Broad Street, actually the part that is on the west side,” explained Hutchinson.
“They have authority on what’s allowed to go on there or not go on there.”
It was a state regulation, requiring an Encroachment Permit, which ultimately necessitated the food truck’s move to the corner of Broad and State Streets, the only section of the green that is town owned.
The Encroachment Permit Regulations “are intended to provide control of Bureau of Highways’ right of way on the State highway system for use other than movement of vehicles, loads and pedestrians by others than the Department of Transportation; to prevent unsafe and hazardous conditions, annoying interruptions to traffic, and interference with future highway needs; and, to insure compliance with Federal laws, State statutes and other State policies, procedures and regulations,” according to http://www.ct.gov.
“As we continued to explore the ordinance and explore the regulations, I had additional communication with them (state officials) and got a different read from the state, and a different interpretation,” said Hutchinson.
Hutchison said it was his department’s responsibility to follow up after notification that the food truck was in violation of state regulations. The food truck moved on Tuesday, May 10.
“Once we become aware of something, we can’t ignore it. The truth is, we weren’t even aware of it (the need for the Encroachment Permit) until it was brought to our attention,” said Hutchison.
Nicolas Carvente admitted that the Encroachment Permit was initially overlooked when he applied for permits.
In addition, he said is aware there were complaints about noise from the generator that powers his kitchen.
“I think maybe a couple of times a few people say, ‘Well, your generator is like a little loud,” said Nicolas Carvante.
“So, but, I’m working on it. I’m going to fix it as much (as) I can and I just want to make everyone happy, without trouble.” Nicolas Carvante said.
He said many customers have expressed concern over the move.
“Many, many of them (customers) are asking, ‘Why? Why did they move you over here? We want to get you back to the original spot,’” says Nicolas Carvente.
State Rep. Sean Scanlon, who is familiar with the situation, has offered his assistance if Taqueria Cinco decides to apply for this permit.
“My understanding is, from my conversation with him, that he doesn’t want to apply for that,” said Scanlon. “I told him that if he did want to then I would be more than happy, and I believe the town has offered as well, to sort of instruct him how to do that.
“Then, of course, it is up to the state to grant that, or not.”
Additionally, in response to this issue, the town is currently proposing changes to the Peddling and Solicitation ordinance, last updated in 1965. With input from the health department, police department, Planning and Zoning, Economic Development and town legal representation, revisions were proposed at their May 11town meeting.
“We did a very narrow, in my opinion, rewrite of the ordinance…and addressed some very minor stuff in the ordinance which regulated times when people could knock on your door at night,” explained Hutchinson.
Other proposed changes include increased license fees, inclusion of mobile food establishments, consistent with other town ordinances, and possible preferred town locations for the food trucks.
Copies can be obtained at the Guilford Town Hall, 31 Park St., Guilford.
“This is not a, quote on quote, food truck ordinance,” stressed Hutchinson. “This is a peddling and soliciting ordinance, which governs not only mobile food establishments, as they’re referred to in the ordinance, but also anybody from the guy who’s selling replacement windows to the people that are soliciting for anything, really, door to door.”
Both Nicolas and Beto Carvente agree the south end of the green affords them greater visibility, but they will do what needs to be done to continue their business in Guilford.
The Cervente brothers appreciate their loyal customers, they say.
“Many, many of them, they just say, ‘Well, we want to see you go back to the usual spot. Let’s see first what we find out and don’t worry everything’s going to fine. We’re going to follow you wherever you go,’ explained Nicolas Cervente.
“We feel the most lucky ones,” he added. “I don’t have the words to say thank you, thank you very much. Our customers in Guilford are great.”
Guilford Town Hall, 31 Park St., Guilford; 203-453-8001; Guilford Police Department, 400 Church St., Guilford, 203-453-8061; Facebook Guilford Police Department; Facebook Taqueria Cinco.