Mobile food trucks? Ogden restaurants worry

Thursday , June 05, 2014 - 5:37 PM

OGDEN — Ogden City is thinking about allowing mobile food trucks to park on city streets, and while owners of local brick and mortar restaurants say they aren’t against the idea, they aren’t without their concerns, either.

The city planning commission voted Wednesday to approve a petition that would amend a zoning ordinance to allow mobile food trucks in more areas throughout the city — specifically along city streets for a three-hour block of time, as long as the carts are not within 200 feet of an existing restaurant. 

Currently, the city only allows mobile food trucks in manufacturing zones, but the zoning amendment would allow the trucks in commercial zones as well. The trucks are illegal in residential areas and that wouldn’t change under the amendment.

The petition to change the zoning ordinance came from Roy residents David and Carol Hasratian, who want to be able to operate their gourmet grilled cheese sandwich truck in Ogden’s commercial zones.

Carol Hasratian says she’s dreamed of owning a gourmet grilled cheese establishment for quite some time and wants to be able to offer her food to the citizens working and recreating in Ogden.

Ogden Planner Rick Grover said once the planning department received the Hasratians’ petition, staffers began to contact local restaurants to feel them out about the idea. The staff also contacted officials from Flagstaff, Ariz. and Fort Collins, Colo. — two cities similar in size to Ogden that allow mobile food trucks in commercial zones.

Among the restaurant owners polled, those who were outright opposed to the idea and those who offered lukewarm support cited similar concerns, chief among them, how would the food trucks impact business at stationary restaurants.

Steve Ballard, owner of The Sonora Grill in Ogden City’s Junction, said he’s not against mobile food trucks, but said major efforts should be made to ensure owners of local brick and mortar restaurants are not adversely impacted.

“We don’t have any problems with competition,“ Ballard said. ”Competition is good and the consumer ultimately chooses where they want to go, but the (brick and mortar restaurant) investment needs to be protected as much as possible.“

Ballard also said if the trucks are to operate in Ogden’s special assessment area, they should have to contribute in some way to the special assessment, just like other businesses who are anchored in the area are required to.

The commission heard from several other high-profile Ogden restaurateurs.

Kym Buttschardt, owner of Roosters Brewing Co., Alex Montanez, owner of Rovali’s Ristorante Italiano, and Nick VanArsdell, co-owner of The Lucky Slice Pizza, all voiced concerns similar to Ballard’s, noting that it’s important the 200-foot rule is followed and enforced strictly.

Buttschardt said introducing the food carts would be similar to when the city started allowing taco carts outside of the municipal building near 25th Street. She said while the impact has been minimal, there has been an impact and that must be considered when allowing new businesses into the community that have far less money invested in it.

"You’re talking about an $800,000 investment versus an $80,000 investment,” she said.

Jared Allen, an Ogden resident, told the planning commission that he thinks the mobile food trucks should be kept away from the downtown area, saying focus should instead be placed on bringing in businesses that will fill vacant space.

"We already have so many empty buildings,” he said. “And there’s a lot of work to be done to fill them.”

The planning staff agrees that the food trucks shouldn’t be allowed in the Junction or on 25th Street and that the 200-foot distance requirement, or even one of 100 feet, would keep the trucks from occupying any portion of either of the two areas.

Aside from being at least 200 feet away from an existing restaurant, the food truck amendment has a host of other stipulations potential mobile food establishments would have to abide by, like providing their own trash and recycling containers, not being allowed to leave vehicles running idle or playing music.

Carol Hasratian said she intends on following the rules if the proposal is approved and said she would even work with some of the concerned restaurants to sell some of their menu items out of her truck.

The city council will vote for final approval on the trucks at an upcoming city council meeting, although the date for a public hearing has not yet been determined.

Contact reporter Mitch Shaw at 801-625-4233 or Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.

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