Ideas sought for permanent food truck rules

By Jason Hawk -

No move has been made to solve food truck concerns since city council imposed a moratorium on their operations this summer.

Now Amherst’s governing body has been asked to submit ideas for common sense regulations of mobile vendors to the mayor’s office and law director Tony Pecora.

“I would suggest we bring this up every committee meeting until we get this solved. I don’t want it to lie on the wayside and get forgotten,” mayor Mark Costilow told the ordinance committee Sept. 18.

Ideas don’t have to be lengthy — council president John Dietrich requested even one-sentence pitches from city legislators.

“Everybody’s got different ideas on how far they want it to go, and if they don’t want it downtown or want it downtown,” he said. “We can’t just go off half-cocked and just keep talking about it. We need to have something in front of us that we can debate and talk about and come up with a reasonable ordinance that we can put on council floor and pass.”

Pecora warned council not to deliberate on food trucks or any other item by email, which would breach Ohio’s Sunshine Laws. All discussion must be done in open meetings.

The law director opposes a total ban on mobile kitchens, saying restrictions must be “reasonable.”

But he said other cities have put in place many creative options for controlling vendors.

Dietrich suggested the mayor contact downtown restaurateurs for input on crafting regulations — after all, they’ve put their life savings into their brick-and-mortar businesses, he said.

In late July, council imposed a list of temporary rules for mobile vendor operations in an emergency vote aimed at controlling fire hazards.

It came after heated debate about the Smash food truck, which drew attention for serving customers on Park Avenue.

The moratorium prohibits food trucks from parking on public property within 15 feet of any building or parked vehicle, in fire lanes, or from using combustible fuel. It also puts controls on the noise and fumes such kitchens are allowed to generate.

Council also required vendors to have fire extinguishers and carry up to $1 million worth of insurance.

Part of the debate has been over protecting local establishments from what some have called “unfair” competition.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk