The popular rolling kitchens known as food trucks will be permitted to operate in the City of Tonawanda – though not in its parks – under new regulations the Common Council unanimously approved Tuesday.
“We’re gratified that the City of Tonawanda has allowed us on the playing field in this municipality, and we’re looking forward to a trial run to see how this works out for both the trucks and the city,” said Mitchell M. Stenger, attorney for the Western New York Food Truck Association.
The rules, which are similar to those recently passed in Buffalo and Amherst, include:
• An annual $400 application fee prorated to $100 for the remainder of 2013.
• A ban on operating within 100 feet from the outer walls of any restaurant with an open kitchen.
• A requirement for at least two trash receptacles of “sufficient capacity.”
• A sunset clause that will force lawmakers to revisit the issue when the ordinance expires Dec. 31, which essentially makes Tuesday’s Council action a trial run.
A separate city ordinance prohibits outside food vendor sales in city parks such as the popular Niawanda Park along the Niagara River, though Stenger promised to push for a revision. No one from the trucks’ brick-and-mortar competitors spoke out against the rules.
Tuesday’s adoption of the regulations caps four weeks of negotiations, though it was far less contentious than in Amherst, where rules governing food trucks were passed in May after nearly eight months of back-and-forth on the issue. The city’s action could help set a precedent for other communities that have yet to tackle the issue.
Fourth Ward Alderman Tyler J. Kossow, who sponsored the resolution, said city officials closely studied regulations passed by Buffalo and Amherst in drafting their own rules and pointed to the sunset clause as a way to improve them.
“If there’s a particular point that we want to change, amend, renew, we have that authority, and the food trucks also like that,” said Kossow. “We’re feeling each other out.”
The WNY Food Truck Association, however, was not completely satisfied with the regulations. Stenger contended that the initial $400 fee is out of proportion for a community the size of Tonawanda and asked the Council to consider a lower annual renewal fee. He also proposed that the city consider an option for a six-month permit for $200 so trucks could operate only during the warm weather months.
Food trucks have not been prevalent in the city yet, with only Ayoub Abboud’s Knight Slider truck operating there on a regular basis. But its presence was enough to raise objections from restaurant owners and spark the debate. Abboud took issue with the 100-foot proximity limit, which the Council added to the resolution during Tuesday’s meeting.
“The 100-foot restriction is more of a protectionist clause for noncompetition and favors bricks-and-mortars,” said Abboud, who was joined at Tuesday’s meeting by several other truck owners.
Pete Cimino, one of the owners of Lloyd Taco Truck, said he anticipates applying for a permit. “We’re pretty understaffed right now, but I’d at least like to get out and test the waters and do something on the weekends,” he said.
Food truck owners may apply for permits once Mayor Ronald J. Pilozzi signs the meeting minutes, which should be early next week, said City Clerk Janice R. Bodie.