Oregon considers options for food truck vendors

Kelly J. Kaczala

        The Oregon Economic Development & Planning Committee on Monday discussed options for the operation of food trucks that would allow vendors to more freely locate in the city to sell their food.
        Earlier this summer, there had been complaints from food vendors that they were not free to locate where they wanted in the city unless it’s at a special event.
        City council in July wanted to give the administration time to come up with policies and procedures governing food trucks.
        Oregon City Administrator Mike Beazley said at the committee meeting last week that the Oregon zoning code currently provides for food trucks through its conditional use process.
        “In our discussions with council, with the mayor talking to vendors and in the community, we think that is actually an appropriate mechanism,” said Beazley. “We want to ask council for some guidance on maybe some ways to tweak that a little bit and make it more practical in these uses.  We laid out four general areas about which we have questions. After we get some feedback and input from council, we will prepare legislation.”
        Currently, the fee for a conditional use is $300.
        “That’s one of the things we want to look at,” said Beazley. “The question is, `Do we reduce that for food trucks and create a special category for food trucks so it’s more practical?’ Some other cities charge $100-$150 for registration fees, some have nothing. Is there a way to reduce it to a number that’s more practical so it’s not an unreasonable burden? That’s a question we want council to think about and get some input from them,” said Beazley.
        “Also, how broad should the conditional use be? We would ask for some guidelines and we’d include it in the legislation. In terms of time, should there be just be an annual application, or do it for five years at a time? There’s a couple of ways we could see doing that. We didn’t think it would be practical to have it for just one year.”
        Another question would be how broad of an area would the conditional use cover.
        “Let’s say I want to have food truck service in Oregon. Our notion is to allow them to apply for a broader area than just one location. Let’s say we’re interested in certain days of the week, certain locations. They couldn’t go to locations that weren’t approved without some sort of a supplemental change. And we could have a process that if they need to expand or do something different, they can make an application to do that.”
        The fourth area of concern, he said, “kind of gets to the heart of it.”
        “Right now, our conditional use application is a two to five week process,” he said, which includes a review by the planning commission. Some on council have expressed an interest in providing for an administrative process that could speed things up.
        “The applicant could choose either path, either go to the planning commission or go through the administrative process. The planning commission would be an ultimate remedy if they didn’t have a satisfying outcome,” he said.
        The city council and planning commission would also consider a conditional use’s impact on adjacent or surrounding properties.
        “There would perhaps be geographic areas where we won’t think it makes practical sense to approve. We believe we can have a system that makes it practical for trucks to come in. Our code does provide for it now as a conditional use. But we think an easier process with some flexibility would achieve our objectives,” said Beazley.
        Mayor Mike Seferian said the $300 application fee would seem to be a costly fee. But it covers the cost of the city issuing the required legal notices in local newspapers, staff time processing the applications, and other administrative duties.
        “Actually, at $300, we are not making money. We’re probably behind. We always come up with a number competitive with other cities around us that we thought was fair,” he said.
        Seferian also said it is necessary to protect the Navarre Avenue business corridor, between I-280 to Coy Road, due to the city’s efforts to attract developers of a planned town center that would include restaurants and an entertainment district.
        Two years ago, at a stakeholders meeting for business owners mostly located along Navarre Avenue, Seferian said he believed there would be a day when food trucks would be prohibited.
        Among the first food trucks to get forced out was a vendor that sold barbecue chicken, he said. The vendor went across the street from DEET’S barbecue, which lodged a complaint with the city.
        As a result, the city had no other choice than to follow up on the complaint, he said.
        “So we were forced to make that person leave because we had no provision for them to stay,” said Seferian.
        Another example, he said, was a food vendor who had approached the city with plans to sell ice cream. He was going to invest $35,000 and locate in the Pat Catan’s parking lot on Navarre Avenue next to the former Wendy’s fast food restaurant, which was bought for about $1 million by someone with plans to upgrade the building with an additional $1.8 million and bring in Dairy Queen. Seferian said it was not fair to the investor. The vendor understood and took it no further.
        “So we’re trying to make it as easy of a system as we can to permit food trucks, yet protect our town center area,” said Seferian.
        “If we decide on an administrative approach,” said James Gilmore, commissioner of building and zoning, “we probably should set some guidelines. If they meet those guidelines, we could approve it. Otherwise, they would need to go to the planning commission if they didn’t want to meet those particular guidelines.”
        Councilman Tim Zale asked if the vendors are required to have permits from the county and health department.
        Beazley said the health department requires a certificate.
        “The county health department will still do its job doing inspections. Ours is just a `time and place’ mechanism,” said Beazley.
        Zale asked if the city would be involved if a food truck was invited to locate on private property.
        “The code is all about regulation of uses on private property,” said Beazley. “That’s the entire nature of the code. If I’m operating a business on Navarre, I have to live within the zoning code as decided by the people of Oregon through their legislation.”


The Press

The Press
1550 Woodville Road
Millbury, OH 43447

(419) 836-2221

Email Us

Facebook Twitter

Ohio News Media Association