The Bellevue Planning and Zoning Commission expressed unanimous support Monday for mobile food vendors, or food trucks. The commission was in favor of tweaking a proposed draft of new business and licensing regulations to allow these temporary and portable restaurants to operate.
“I am for this, and this is the kind of language we need to make it happen,” said P&Z Commissioner Ray McCollum. He said in Seattle food trucks allow for an experience of “international cuisine by just walking a few blocks.”
Many valley restaurants, including Smokey Bone BBQ and KB’s Burritos, already employ food trucks at special events. Restaurants in Ketchum have at times pushed back against mobile food vendors, which they claimed were stealing business. But, the city now sports a stable home for them off of Main Street, in an otherwise undeveloped lot next to Whiskey Jacques.
The Bellevue planning staff initiated a text amendment to city code in 2019 to regulate food trucks so they could conduct business in city limits, but the initiative was pushed back by other developments and the pandemic.
Community Development Director Diane Shay said the city has seen many requests from mobile food vendors to set up within the city limits on private and public property, but that without a code to regulate them they would not be allowed.
“If the code is silent on them, I interpret this as meaning you can’t do it,” Shay said.
The proposed changes to city code include a definition for mobile food vendors, location requirements and an annual license that would cost $100. The proposed law change would also require a Health District certification.
Shay said that she grew concerned about unregulated portable vendors when she was approached by one purveyor recently that was selling not only food, but eyeglasses and other sundry items. She indicated that such sales could be a problem for the town.
Shay said she approached “brick and mortar” restaurant businesses about the possibility of a proliferation of food trucks.
“We really didn’t get a lot of pushback,” said Shay, adding that the proposed regulations are standard “boilerplate.” Yet several issues arose among the commission that would likely need to be addressed during a noticed public hearing, such as parking, noise and impact from exhaust fumes.
Shay said she will be checking with the Idaho Transportation Department to see if mobile food vendors would be allowed on Main Street.
Joe L’Heureux, a mobile juice vendor currently located in Ohio, provided some options for regulation to the commission Monday. He said Bellevue had the option of allowing mobile food vendors on public roads, which Ketchum and Hailey do not.
“Food trucks are seeing a boom right now during the pandemic,” L’Heureux said.
The P&Z Commission directed staff to schedule a public hearing on the issue, time and date to be announced.