Thursday, December 5, 2013
PORTLAND — Portland will consider loosening rules for the operators of food trucks, some of whom say the current regulations make no sense and discourage them from doing business in the city.
This El Corazon food truck would be among those affected if councilors amend the local ordinance.
Gordon Chibroski/2013 Press Herald file
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A restaurant operator who served on the city's food truck task force said more food trucks can only make the city more attractive for diners and will boost the local economy. But he said restaurants would be opposed to allowing food trucks to park near their businesses.
Members of the City Council's Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee are scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall to discuss a set of amendments to the food truck ordinance.
Those changes, which were crafted by Associate Corporation Counsel Jennifer L. Thompson, include reducing the fee required to relocate a food truck and allowing food trucks to cluster or operate within close proximity to one another.
The recommendations – if they are adopted by the committee – must receive final approval from the City Council. Four councilors serve on the committee, which is chaired by Councilor Edward Suslovic. He could not be reached for comment Sunday night.
"These are all good recommendations," said Ben Berman, co-owner of Mainely Burgers, which operated a food truck in Portland this summer. Berman commended the city for reaching out to food truck owners and trying to satisfy their concerns. "The city realized it needed to change the regulations."
Berman said he likes the proposed amendment that would lower the fee for parking on private property.
According to a memo provided by Thompson to the committee, food truck operators must pay $30 for a building permit and $75 for an occupancy permit for operating on private property. If they change locations, they must pay the $105 fee again.
But Thompson, who consulted with Suslovic on the issue, is now recommending that the fee to move be reduced to $30.
Thompson is also recommending that food trucks be allowed to cluster, a provision that restaurant manager Steve DiMillo said he would support.
In her memo, Thompson said there "appears to be widespread support" for allowing food trucks to operate within close proximity to one another, provided that they are not within 65 feet of any fixed-base retail establishment on the peninsula and within 200 feet off the peninsula.
DiMillo, who manages DiMillo's Restaurant, said he supports having food trucks operating within the city. He said the trucks bring more people into the city and offer diners more choices. Clustering is a good concept, he added.
"People want that (clustering) type of food experience. There should be some variety. Putting all the food trucks together makes it a destination for people," DiMillo said.
However, DiMillo, who served on the city's food truck task force, said restaurants would oppose any changes that would allow the trucks to operate in close proximity to their businesses.
Anna Turcotte, who owns Love Cupcakes, said she has a food truck that she intended to operate in Portland but she changed her mind after finding out she would have to pay a $105 fee every time she relocated.
Turcotte, who currently operates a food truck on Route 1 in Falmouth, said she would reconsider doing business in Portland if it lifts the relocation fee and allows the trucks to operate in a high-traffic location such as Compass Park on Portland's waterfront – an area frequented by cruise ship passengers.
Thompson acknowledged that operators want the city to designate a city-owned lot where they could operate for extended periods, but she said no location has been identified.
"There's so much money to be made in Portland. We could run a great business there if we had a good location," Turcotte said.
Sarah Sutton and her husband, Karl, operate a food truck called Bite Into Maine at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth.
Sutton said she would consider operating in Portland but she said many of the rules adopted by the city don't make sense – such as requiring building permits and occupancy permits.
Sutton said the proposals that will be considered by the council committee make sense and might encourage more trucks to come to Portland.
Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy contributed to this report.
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: