Council: Food truck limitations extended into 2018

By Jason Hawk -

An almost complete ban on food trucks was extended into the summer as Amherst city council wrapped up its legislative year Monday.

State lawmakers are expected to tackle the growing issue of where and when mobile vendors can operate.

Assistant law director Frank Carlson advised council to hold off on local laws and see what the General Assembly does.

“I think we’re spinning our wheels until the state comes out with its legislation,” agreed council president John Dietrich. He said many of council’s ideas for regulating food trucks have merit but “whatever we do may not work.”

Officials voted in July to place a moratorium on mobile kitchens, citing public safety. Set to expire Dec. 31, it has been renewed through June.

The measure doesn’t fully stop all food trucks from setting up shop, but it does bar them from parking on public property within 15 feet of any building or parked vehicle, in fire lanes, or from using combustible fuel.

As city treasurer Richard Ramsey pointed out Monday, there are some loopholes. Vendors could still serve salads, ice cream, or other foods that don’t require cooking.

Councilman Joe Miller said the moratorium also does not ban food trucks from operating on private property as long as they adhere to safety rules. They can park on commercial sites with the property owner’s permission, though other laws stop them from doing business in residential areas.

But a cursory examination of downtown areas shows there are no spots that food trucks can operate legally, considering all the limitations.

The moratorium was extended in a unanimous vote.

Monday’s council meeting was the last of the year and included a few wrap-up votes.

Officials voted to move around several thousand dollars from the general fund to water pollution control plant and law department accounts to cover payroll until Jan. 1.

They also cast votes to approve cost-of-living pay increases for the auditor, treasurer, city council members, clerk of council, and firefighters. Brian Dembinski and Chuck Winiarski cast votes against a pay increase for council but it passed 5-2.

Also on the agenda was a liquor permit request from Dolgen Midwest LLC, which owns Dollar General on Cooper Foster Park Road.

Council will not oppose the request, which is largely a formality. Carlson said the city does not have grounds to fight the liquor permit unless it can show the site is a nuisance.

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

By Jason Hawk