Council to change ordinance deterring food trucks
Mar. 23—There were a lot of differing opinions in the Creston City Council Chambers Tuesday, but the council all agreed on one thing — the existing fees for food trucks are too high.
The city's peddler ordinance has the option for one day, one week, six months and one year licenses to sell within city limits. The price starts at $10 and goes up to $1,000.
"This ordinance was set at $1,000 because they were trying to deter people from coming," councilwoman Kiki Scarberry said. "Here's the problem with that — this food truck thing is a big deal. People like it. It brings people to town."
Events like Market on Maple, July Fourth festivities and Southwest Iowa Hot Air Balloon Days have all utilized food trucks in the past. Jeremy Rounds with Lexi's Puppy Patch said he hopes to have food trucks at their grand opening in the end of April.
"I just think the current fee is too high," Scarberry said. "It's hard to get these food trucks to come to our events because they are too small. They aren't going to make here what they would make at the Arts Festival in Des Moines."
The council looked at Osceola's ordinance where fees are $20 for one day or one week; $60 for one month and $200 for one year. The option the council looked at included fees for six months as well.
Councilman Steve Wintermute had concerns with the offered timeframes. "I have no problem with doing this except I have the six month and the one year, I don't think that needs to be in there. If they're going to be here that long, maybe they need a building," he said. "I don't care about the one day, one week or even one month, but we don't need that. That's not fair to our local businesses if we're going to let some guy park out here for six months for a small fee."
Mayor Gabe Carroll questioned whether food trucks are actual competition for restaurants. "I just think that if people were going to sit down in a restaurant, they'll probably go to a restaurant and sit down," Carroll said. "I'm good either way, but what if someone wants to come down a couple times one month and a couple times the next month and a couple times the next month? Isn't that what the six month license is for, so they can come back multiple times?"
Though Wintermute thought the discounted fees would make it easier for them to purchase one month at a time, councilwoman Brenda Keate said she liked the six-month option. "If they want to stay the whole summer, it's a benefit to just pay six months instead of a month, a month, a month."
Carroll said his only experience with a long-term food truck is Little Green Trailer, owned by Waylon and Kylie Clayton of Creston. "I think that they're currently looking for building space but they started off in a food truck," he said. "I think if we had other people that had an idea for a food truck and they thought Creston was a good market, this would let them try it out and maybe, if they decide, they could open a brick and mortar."
Creston Police Chief Paul Ver Meer said he can't remember a time he's issued a one-year permit for peddlers, but he'd prefer to do it the least amount of times as possible.
Councilman Rich Madison said he didn't care either way about the long-term permits. "I just want to make sure the food trucks locally don't have to pay the fees," he said. "You should support the local guys."
Keate and Wintermute disagreed with the sentiment. "If they're local, then they can purchase a building and pay taxes," Wintermute said. "You have several restaurants uptown here. Ask them how many taxes they pay."
Ver Meer informed the council the ordinance as it's written doesn't charge locals. "If you read the city code for street peddlers under exempt individuals, it says local residents and farmers, so if you're going to change that, you're probably going to have to change your ordinance," he said. "Right now, that's what we are doing."
The council was not in favor of changing the ordinance from exempting locals.
Councilwoman Jocelyn Blazek said the council needed to consider who would be using the long-term licenses. "If you leave the ordinance as is and you aren't going to charge local residents, your local residents are the ones that are probably going to be your long-term trailers," she said. "If you're not charging them anyway, then it's kind of a moot point to put more than one month in there anyway. So I don't see an issue taking six months and one year out."
Carroll encouraged the council to start where they agreed — the price. After discussion, they set an application fee of $20 for all peddlers, local or otherwise. With the fee for one day and one week being identical, the council nixed the shorter option. They agreed on $20 per week and $60 per month. Then the debate of whether or not to include six months or one year came back.
"Fine let's get a trailer out here in the parking lot, let them be here for six months with a chiropractic shop," Wintermute said to Carroll. "How about that? It's just not fair."
Scarberry disagreed, saying it's not about what isn't fair. "You know what, some competition is good," she said. "You've got restaurant people that are leaving. Some competition is good. Somebody else comes in and they have to step up their game a little bit. I think that trying to deter them from coming to town is a mistake. It's something that is happening entertainment-wise and I think that we shouldn't resist it just to protect businesses that maybe need a little push."
The council finally agreed to nix the one year option but to set the six months at $200.
A public hearing was set for their next meeting at 6 p.m., April 4 in the council chambers.