Food trucks show increased interest in Vermilion, but city needs regulations

By Karen Cornelius

The Legislative Committee of Vermilion City Council met on Monday night, June 11, and discussed having food trucks in Vermilion. The topic was brought up by mayor Jim Forthofer reporting for the service director, Tony Valerius, who looked at Vermilion’s current legislation on food trucks and trailers and wanted to make recommendations for changes depending on what city council members thought suitable.

 

Mayor Forthofer said that he has been receiving more requests for information this year from food truck operators. He said, “Food trucks love our community since it’s a tourist town in the summer and attracts a lot of people. However,the city needs to have some discipline to regulate these trucks.” He said they have looked at some other cities and they need to look at various issues such as the dimensions of the truck, the initial permit fee, permit procedures, location requirements, hours of operation, permit revocation, and appeals. He said suggested dimensions are no larger than 18.5 feet long, 10.5 feet tall, and 8 foot wide. The permit fee now is $250 for 90 days. As far as location, the food trucks may not conduct sales when parked on a public street or on public property unless approved by a city sponsored event. He asked if council wanted to indicate that food trucks be removed from the location at the close of business and not be parked at the location overnight. Hours of operation suggested were 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. All this and more were up for discussion to see what they want. He added the current code and recommendations would go to the law director for review.

 

Councilwoman Barb Brady said she has a real problem with the current code. She said the festivals accept food trucks and it would be all right to have them at Sherod Park and Showse Park, but she wanted them ban in the historic district. She said they have restaurants who are never usually packed at lunch and now they could undermine these restaurants just for $250 for 90 days. “That’s horrible. This is too small a town to add food trucks. It would kill Third Thursday events,” said Brady. “I’ll close down Third Thursday if they come in for it. I’ll lose space and the restaurants will lose. We can’t do this. I feel extremely strong they cannot be in the historic district.”

 

Councilman John Gabriel said he agreed with most of what Brady said. He said food trucks should be on public property only, not private property where they could be in someone’s sideyard. He said Sherod and Showse would be okay with him, but otherwise, build a restaurant if you want to sell food. He said food trucks would be tough competiton with existing restaurants. Council president Steve Herron asked the mayor what these food truck operators want. The mayor responded that they want a license for the summer, camp out. He said he agreed with an exclusion area. He said there was a request for a food truck on private property near Rotary Centennial Park off West River Road under the water tower/navigation aid. Mayor Forthofer said the city obviously needs a policy for this request and others.

 

Council-at-large Monica Stark stated that food trucks now are a big thing, it’s here. They are not carnival anymore, some are gourmet food. She said Cedar Point has them all over and they can be a neat thing. She said if she wanted to go out to dinner she would want to go to a restaurant and sit down not go to a truck. However, food trucks attract different crowds and only focus on a few items. She didn’t think some food trucks would hurt restaurants, but maybe fast-food places. She thought permits should be for public property, not private, and there should be short-term contracts, not 90 days, but 30 days. She said actually in Rotary Park, a food truck would be a fun thing for people. She thought if Vermilion decided where they can bring food trucks in it could increase business and add more character to Vermilion.

 

Council president Herron thought they should wait for the law director to review the code and recommendations. He said they have to see how many restrictions they can impose of if they are trampling on private rights. Council-at-large Stark said if they put it back on committee for July they are going to lose the summer because passing an ordinance or amendments would take another six weeks so they wouldn’t make the summer season. Councilwoman Brady added that the VOL Clubhouse has some weddings that do use food trucks because restaurants have to cater there. Stark said this could be incorporated into the ordinance. Councilman Frank Loucka wanted to look deeper into other communities with experience to see how they handle food trucks.

 

Councilwoman Brady asked mayor Forthofer how the city was handling requests now. He said they are using a code on transient dealers approved by the mayor and they can only be approved for special events in the city. He said they can’t be at Main Street Beach unless there is a special event. Councilman Steve Holovacs said the city needs to call the Erie County Health Department to see if the food vendor is following the rules. He said someone needs to check them to make sure and this should be added to any ordinance. Councilman Gabriel said they need to have insurance because they are using gas, hot stoves on public property. They are near public structures and the city needs proof.
The committee will wait for the law director’s opinion.

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