Food truck workshop leads to another workshop
The Eureka Springs City Council is still working on creating an ordinance establishing regulations for the way food trucks should operate in the city.
The council held a workshop Monday night before its regular meeting, with city clerk Ann Armstrong handing out a proposal for mobile food truck and trailer vendors. Armstrong was part of the Food Truck Committee, along with alderman Bob Thomas and former planning commission chairman Steve Beacham.
Beacham presented the committee's plan at the council's May 23 meeting. He said the plan requires site owners, not mobile food truck and trailer owners, to apply for permits. The site owners, he said, would allow the operation of a food truck and trailer vendor if granted a permit.
Site owners who are granted permits, Beacham noted, would be free to independently arrange for the mobile food truck and trailer vendors of their choice to operate on their property. The number of permits will be limited, he said. He explained that site owners would apply for permits by entering a once-a-year lottery to be held mid-November. There will be four separate lotteries, he said. Those lotteries are for Main Street, White Street, Highway 62 and 23 single unit and Highway 62 and 23 food court.
On Main Street and White Street, Beacham said, one permit will be available for one single food truck and trailer vendor. He said Highway 62 and 23 will have two permits available for one single food truck and trailer vendor and one permit available for a truck and trailer food court.
Mayor Butch Berry said Monday night that he hoped the workshop would help the council figure out how to draft up an ordinance with the committee's plan in mind. Alderman David Mitchell pointed out that a site on Kingshighway had been added to the plan, saying that site could be a little too specific.
"That is so specific to almost be giving a permit," Mitchell said.
"Nothing's being given away," Armstrong responded. "It's a lottery."
She said the site was added after a private property owner in the area expressed interest in having food trucks there. That area is too small, Mitchell said, for very many other private property owners to sign up for the food truck lottery.
"That's so specific for such a small area," Mitchell said.
Alderwoman Kristi Kendrick said she didn't understand why private property locations were being limited by the lottery in the first place.
"In general, I'm opposed to monopolies, and I see this as a monopoly," Kendrick said. "I think it would be appropriate to limit permits if they were on public property, but as long as they are on private property, I do not understand why we are limiting it."
Armstrong explained that the committee moved toward having food trucks on private property after realizing the competition for public property was high.
"That's why all these are private property, and we added [sites] as people stepped up and expressed an interest in the opportunity to have a food truck on their private property," Armstrong said.
Alderwoman Mickey Schneider recalled when the food truck debate began. She said it started with two food truck operators approaching the council and asking to set up downtown between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
"That was the whole idea, because downtown ... that's where all the people are walking to bars," Schneider said. "That was the whole point was to allow them to have food ... and keep it as a franchise so we could control when, where and how many."
Food truck operator Victor Smith asked if he could move from site to site, and Thomas said he could if the private property owners agree to it. Schneider interjected, saying it's possible private property owners could decide they don't like a food truck operator and kick that food truck operator out after giving them permission to be at the site.
"You could spend all that time, money, effort ... setting up a food truck to use it one time, so where do you take it after that?" Schneider said.
"That's not our problem," alderman Terry McClung said.
"I'm tired of hearing, 'That's not our problem,' " Schneider responded. "That is our problem. It is our problem. We should guarantee they're going to have a chance. Otherwise, we should be in this at all."
"I'm all for that," McClung said.
"What are you going to do about the people with food trucks?" Schneider asked.
"Well, they can go somewhere else," McClung said.
Alderman James DeVito invoked Robert's Rules of Order, saying people needed to take turns speaking. The council agreed to do so, moving on to discuss the way the committee created the food truck plan. Schneider said she was disappointed that a food truck vendor wasn't on the committee.
"Nobody bothered to ask experienced personnel to sit on a meeting," Schneider said. "They were never put on a committee, even after the meetings we had."
Thomas said it would have been chaotic if a food truck vendor were on the committee.
"If you had put a mobile food truck vendor on the committee, you would have had to put a restaurant owner on the committee, and we would have been talking forever," Thomas said. "We were three objective people."
He continued, addressing Mitchell's point about the Kingshighway location. Thomas suggested combining the Kingshighway and White Street sites, and McClung said he'd be in favor of that. Schneider reminded the council of how the food truck discussion started, saying the committee's plan is far different from the way the conversation began.
"We originally brought this up for Friday and Saturday night ...so restaurants would not be affected, so no one would be hurt to speak of, so our visitors would be happier than they normally are," Schneider said, asking why a downtown site wasn't on the plan.
Armstrong pointed out that Main Street from the junction of Highway 62 to the northern city limit is the first site listed.
"Yeah, one spot. Big whoop," Schneider said. "We are nowhere near what we started as."
"We were striving to find a beginning point that would satisfy your concerns, your concerns, your concerns, your concerns," Armstrong responded, pointing at different people. "What I hear from people is, 'We want food trucks. Why don't we have food trucks?'"
She continued, "Well, because so-and-so wants it this way and so-and-so wants it this way. We found the middle ground."
With two minutes left of the hour-long workshop, DeVito asked to wrap it up.
"So are we going to have another workshop?" Armstrong asked.
"Sounds like it," DeVito said.
"I think so," Berry added.