Food vendors operating trucks may face more city regulations

MARK MARONEY/Sun-Gazette Mobile food vendors such as Saucy Sam’s seen parked on Hepburn Street and others may face regulations as part of a new ordinance proposed by the city administration.

Responding to an outcry from multiple downtown restaurant owners, food truck vendors are on verge of having to follow a new set of regulations, which may include additional permit fees.

The proposed ordinance began to be reviewed Monday by the city planning commission.

“We want food trucks and we want our partnerships with the city brick-and-mortar businesses to continue,” said Mayor Gabriel J. Campana. “Brick-and-mortar businesses either have a mortgage or pay rent and other expenditures,” Campana said. “These trucks have had a negative impact on many businesses downtown, especially when they park in front of the restaurant and it becomes a deterrant to citizens making a choice of going inside or receiving food as soon as possible on the streets,” he said.

The purpose of the proposal is to promote the health, safety, comfort, convenience, prosperity and general welfare of people by requiring that new and existing mobile food vendors provide residents and customers with a level of cleanliness, quality and safety, according to Gary Knarr, city zoning officer.

The other intent establishes “reasonable guidelines and restrictions for these food truck vendors and encourage the safe and convenience use of the city’s public-right-of-way,” the draft states.

Currently, vendors on wheels pay $80 for a health permit each year and costs to park each day of $10, according to Joseph Gerardi, city codes administrator.

He said officials are reviewing costs at nearby State College, which assesses $150 per month. If approved, the city’s might not be adverse to providing a discount if paid all at once, such as $1,200 instead of $1,800 annually, he said.

The planning commission will continue to discuss it before sending a recommendation on the proposal to the City Council for final approval.

Rules subject to change for food vendors include provisions where they:

• Can’t operate in city residential zones

• Must be 50 feet from another mobile food vendor unit

• Are prohibited from located in the Mall district and within 50 feet of a property that is a brick-and-mortar restaurant or business with a valid health license

• Can’t be within 15 feet of a fire hydrant

• Are prohibited to be on private property, without written approval of the property owner

• Must provide a waste recycling bin and shall pick up and remove all papers, wrappers, bottles and other refuse dropped by customers within 20 feet of their unit.

• Must oversee their customers so they don’t obstruct a public right-of-way, impair the movement of pedestrians or pose a hazard to public safety

• Must be attended by at least one operator over the age of 18 at all times

• Must submit proof of payment of the city’s mercantile and state sales tax and information must be made available upon request by the city

• Must be operating within 15 minutes of occupying public space

• Must obtain a health license as required by codes department and renew the license in according to city guidelines

• Accept additional limitations on hours, with location and days to prevent conflicts with special events

• Can’t maintain or use outside amplified equipment, lights or noisemakers

• Cease to operate at 2 a.m. each day and remove truck by 2:30 a.m. each day.