Ordinance may restrict food trucks in Farmington

Farmington city officials on Monday discussed proposed changes to the city’s special events ordinance that would affect food trucks and other mobile food vendors.

The ordinance basically represents how the city currently handles food truck events, city attorney Tom Schultz said. An early version shifted permit approvals from the city manager to city council based on the anticipated crowd size, but the Farmington Downtown Development Authority (DDA) in its review suggested the city manager have approval authority over all permits.

Schultz said food trucks that are part of a special event like the Greater Farmington Founders Festival would be included under the event’s permit. Owners of trucks and stands that are part of a “mobile food vending special event” – such as a food truck rally – would be required to apply for a special event permit.

The proposed ordinance, which covers other details like placement, lighting, waste disposal and insurance, would limit any one food vendor to three events in the community per year. Property owners would be limited to applying for three special event permits that involve food trucks. In addition, food vendors would not be allowed within 150 feet of an open restaurant, unless the host of the event is a brick-and-mortar business that sells food or alcohol.

Council member Greg Cowley, an outspoken critic of food trucks in the city’s central business district, said he was “a little disappointed in the DDA”, which supports the proposed ordinance. One of that organization’s “fundamental tenets”, he said, is to promote policies that don’t harm brick-and-mortar businesses.

Cowley also suggested that the permit fees for mobile food vendors align with what local business owners pay in property taxes, which he estimated at about $100 a day for his family’s downtown restaurant.

Mayor Bill Galvin called the draft “a baseline” that represents “pretty well what we’re doing now anyways, but removes the political process.” He asked Schultz and Murphy to take council comments under consideration; the revised ordinance will be reviewed at a future meeting.

“All of these rules are subject to council deciding whether or not they make sense,” Schultz said.