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License fee triples in new food truck draft rules

A new draft of food truck regulations for the City of Buffalo more than triples the license fee, but maintains other provisions generally seen as friendly to mobile vending.

Five months after putting proposed food truck regulations on hold, city lawmakers have received a new version of the draft law that would require food trucks:

*To operate at least 100 feet from the property line "of a licensed food establishment, the kitchen of which is open for serving food to patrons." Food trucks could operate within that boundary with the written consent of the restaurant operator.

*To operate at least 500 feet from any "fair, carnival, circus, festival, special event or civic event that is licensed or sanctioned by the city," unless the operator gets a separate city permit for that special event.

*To obtain a license, with an annual fee of $1,000. The license would expire on April 1 of every year.

*To carry at least two garbage cans that are at least 65 gallons in size.

*To carry a "measuring wheel" that can measure at least 500 feet to check that the operator is outside the protected area.

The Western New York Food Truck Association is "generally pleased" with the proposed set of regulations, said Mitchell M. Stenger, attorney for the group of food truck operators. The proposed increase in fee from $325 to $1,000 is something some members are "not particularly happy with," but the group is pleased there are no special vending districts in the proposal, Stenger said.

The city currently has no clear regulations on the books for the operation of food trucks. The first food truck in the city, Lloyd the taco truck, started operating in July 2010.

Food trucks would be allowed to take up two parking spaces, as long as all other parking rules are followed.

These rules, if approved, would apply to the entire city, except for the downtown business district, managed by Buffalo Place, which has its own set of rules for food trucks.

The fee for a food truck permit from Buffalo Place is $1,300. The new higher fee for mobile vendors is more in line with that.

A proposal from a group of restaurateurs, known as Entrepreneurs for a Better Buffalo, had called for "special vending districts" around sections of Elmwood and Hertel avenues.

Michael H. Kooshoian, attorney for the restaurant group, said his members remain concerned about potential public safety issues, especially in cases when food trucks park on Hertel or Elmwood that already have a lot of pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

Challenging the view that the new proposal is any sort of compromise between the two sides on the issue, Kooshoian also asserted the restaurant owners are not trying to avoid competition.

The restaurant owners in his group already operate in competitive areas, like Hertel and Elmwood, he said. The new set of proposed rules are not very different than what the Council shelved in July, Kooshoian said.

"They haven't listened to anything we've said," he said.