Hermiston City Council to Consider Revising Mobile Vendor Rules

3
978

The Hermiston City Council will consider amending its rules regarding mobile food vendors at an upcoming meeting after a long discussion Monday night on the topic.

City Manager Byron Smith said the city has had inquiries from those wanting to set up a mobile food truck but found it difficult to find a space that complies with the city’s 400-foot spacing requirement for mobile food vendors. The city currently requires a space of 400 feet between a food truck and an existing restaurant or food unit. That distance is measured from the property line and not the unit or building.

“Four hundred feet is a lot longer than you think when you go property line to property line,” said City Planner Clint Spencer.

The city has three different licenses for mobile food vendors. A vendor may apply for an annual license, a 90-day license, or a lunch truck license. The annual license is the most restrictive, said Smith, and is the only license would-be vendors are interested in.

The city has just six mobile food vendor licenses to give out, however, at the current time, only three have been issued.

Smith said that is because potential vendors can’t find an available spot within the city’s spacing restrictions.

“They can’t find a spot that has enough traffic to feel like it justifies doing it,” Smith said.

Smith suggested one solution could be lowering the 400-foot spacing restriction to 100 feet. Spencer showed a map of current available spaces with the 400-foot restriction as well as one with a 100-foot restriction. The current rule of 400 feet leaves virtually no available space for a mobile food vendor along Highway 395.

Mayor Dave Drotzmann asked Spencer if it was his intention to make Highway 395 more accessible to mobile food vendors.

“To me, that is entirely a policy question for the city council,” Spencer said. “Right now, 395 is blacked out. There is a very large amount of land that is available if someone was wanting to be entrepreneurial and set up out near Ranch & Home or on Highway 207 or Highland. All those areas are available. I don’t know how cooperative the owners are and I don’t know even if we were to eliminate the spacing that they would still be able to find a cooperative owner.”

Spencer said the reason behind the 400-foot spacing requirement was to protect existing brick-and-mortar restaurants from facing “any undue competition.”

Drotzmann said there is more value in a brick-and-mortar business than a mobile business.

“Your brick-and-mortar stores invest a lot in capital infrastructure – water, wastewater, electrical,” Drotzmann said. “Physical buildings, right? That helps develop the character of your community whereas a food truck is portable. It’s there one day. It could be gone the next.” The requirement, said Drotzmann, was to protect the entrepreneur that has invested in the community.

Councilor Roy Barron disagreed that mobile vendors were not as valuable to a community.

“These mobile food vendors are entrepreneurs, as well,” he said. “I know of at least one vendor that started as a food vendor and eventually made its way to brick and mortar. I certainly would appreciate 100 feet, because it gives at least some space.” Barron, however, questioned why the city has a space limitation in the first place.

“Either consider 100 feet or nothing,” he said.

Councilor Doug Primmer said he didn’t want to see a street with nothing but food trucks.

“We have to look at the overall view of how our city looks,” Primmer said. “We want the town to look like our town. I don’t see having food truck, food truck, food truck, food truck down the road. Having a smaller setback may be an option, but I don’t think doing away with it completely is a good idea. We do need to help out the brick-and-mortar businesses. There can be a balance and maybe we can take another look at it. I’m not against having more food trucks. We need to look at where we are going to put them and how they are going to operate.”

Councilor Jackie Linton also was worried about having too many food trucks in one area.

“I like the 400-foot exclusion,” Linton said. “I wouldn’t want to see 395 or any other part of Hermiston just cluttered with a lot of food trucks.”

Barron said the city’s rules would prevent a street from being lined with nothing but mobile food trucks because the city only allows for six mobile food vendor licenses.

“Right now, there is no space whatsoever on Highway 395 for any food truck to establish themselves there,” he said. “By removing this (spacing) barrier we can at least create some opportunity for businesses.”

Barron also disagreed with the need to protect brick-and-mortar businesses from competition, adding that food trucks would “not stifle business.” He said denying people the right to operate is stifling business.

Councilor Nancy Peterson said the city should encourage more business whether it was a brick-and-mortar business or a mobile food vendor.

“I don’t see any reason to limit ourselves,” Peterson said. “People talk about the American Dream and a lot of those dreams start with that first truck and that truck turns into a restaurant and that restaurant turns into Shari’s and Shari’s turns into a chain.”

City Councilor David McCarthy said he would like to get input from Hermiston’s restaurant owners and food truck vendors before making any decision on policy changes.

Following the discussion, Smith said he would schedule a public discussion on the topic in the next few meetings.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I agreed with councilmen Primmer i do not like to see Hermiston flooded with food trucks all over town and on Highway 395, i believe in entrepreneurship but i care more about how our town looks like i do not like to see a food truck at any city corner

  2. The Food Court that Hermiston provides across from the Post Office appears to be a successful experiment. If properties are found available in other areas such as Hwy 395, our population certainly can support an even larger type of “Pod”. I recently was part of a family gathering at a large food truck court in Salem, OR that I’m told was established by a private business. It has many food vendors and a central, covered eating facility with indoor/outdoor capabilities.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here