By Jim Therrien | Berkshire Eagle
PITTSFIELD — An ordinance to govern the placement of food trucks in the downtown was requested by the City Council’s Ordinance and Rules Committee following a public meeting that drew supporters and critics of the mobile eateries.
The committee voted 4-0 to send a petition calling for regulation of food trucks to the Community Development Department to create a draft ordinance for review during the board’s September meeting. A request — in light of disputes pitting downtown merchants against food truck owners parking in the area — had been submitted to the council last month by Pamela Tobin, executive director of Downtown Inc.
“I would say that simple and straightforward is best,” said City Planner C.J. Hoss, who had researched ordinances in other cities and presented a number of options to the councilors for consideration.
The least complex format, and likely the easiest to enforce, Hoss said, would involve designating specific parking lots or other spaces in the downtown — and in other areas of Pittsfield if that is deemed necessary — where food trucks are allowed.
Other options, such as specifying setback distances from businesses, requiring access to bathroom facilities for staff members, noise levels for truck generators, or fees for parking on public property, are found in ordinances in other cities, Hoss said.
“I think our charge here is really, where are they going to be allowed?” said Committee Chairwoman Melissa Mazzeo, adding that she might favor a limit on the number of trucks the city would license.
Locations where they might be allowed and the number “are the basic items,” Councilor John Krol said. He said the issues of bathroom access, refuse disposal and other regulation options don’t seem to be necessary at this point, with only two food trucks regularly operating in the county.
Joseph Mele, owner of Newberry Place at 75 North St., stressed that businesses in the downtown “have already paid a premium dollar for our front row seat,” and a food truck parked nearby would be like someone else being allowed to take the front row.
“It is the structure of the competition,” Mele said. “We bought our ticket to the ballgame. I don’t want to underestimate that factor.”
Kathy Lloyd, co-owner of How We Roll, said she researched locations with a desire to avoid conflicts with downtown businesses. Parking areas across from Pittsfield High School on East Street and on Wahconah Street are places the food truck has operated.
Industrial park sites, which were suggested, did not produce enough customers, she said.
In answer to questions, Lloyd said the truck operates from about 11:30 a.m. daily to 2:30 p.m. and during events like a farmers market, fairs or other weekend events.
Bathroom access and refuse disposal have not been issues, she said, in part because of the short daily hours. The trucks are required to obtain a state and local license and meet health and food safety requirements, she said.
Both Lloyd and Jan Seward, who owns the Amanda’s Kitchen food truck with Michael Seward, have said they are looking for a fair compromise that would allow food trucks to operate in the downtown.
The Amanda’s Kitchen truck attempted to operate on North Street in June after obtaining temporary parking permits from the city, but Seward said they stopped after a strong negative reaction from some merchants. Business owners said the situation prompted calls for regulation.
Hoss said issuance of temporary parking permits has been suspended.
The planner said the Community Development staff will draw up a draft ordinance and create a map showing possible locations food trucks could be allowed.