Ogden council approves food truck restrictions

Thursday , August 14, 2014 - 5:21 PM

OGDEN — The Ogden City Council will take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to deciding whether to loosen restrictions on the newly allowed mobile food trucks in downtown Ogden.

On Tuesday, the council voted to approve an ordinance that allows mobile food trucks to operate in commercial areas throughout Ogden, and most notably, the Central Business District, which is considered the area between 20th and 27th streets between Adams Avenue and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.

Prior to the ordinance being passed, food trucks were allowed only in manufacturing zones.

The city defines a mobile food truck as a business that serves only food and nonalcoholic beverages, from an enclosed self-contained motorized vehicle. The definition doesn’t include sidewalk vending carts, mobile food trailers or mobile ice cream vendors.

The consideration to change the zoning law and allow food trucks downtown came from Roy residents Dave and Carol Hasratian, who own the Rocking Gourmet Grilled Cheese food truck. The truck has been in operation for six weeks now, mostly serving Ogden’s industrial areas.

The new ordinance comes with a host of stipulations, which among other things include the following: Food trucks must not be parked within 200 feet of an existing restaurant, food cart or church; food trucks are not allowed in The Junction or Historic 25th Street District; food trucks can operate only between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.; and access is required to a permanent bathroom facility when a food cart is parked on private property.

For the time being, food carts in commercial zones will also be capped at five.

City Planner Rick Grover said the stipulations are meant to protect the brick and mortar restaurants that play an important role in the overall vitality of downtown.

At the council meeting, the Hasratians said one stipulation in particular — the 200-foot rule — will severely limit their ability to do business downtown, which was the reason the couple filed the petition in the first place.

“At 200 feet, there is really nowhere for us to go,” said Dave Hasratian. “That would pretty much shut us out of (downtown) Ogden completely.”

Carol Hasratian told the council she feels unfairly targeted by downtown brick and mortar restaurants, whom the city consulted when drafting the ordinance. 

Several owners of Ogden restaurants attended a June planning commission meeting and voiced concern about allowing food trucks downtown.

Steve Ballard of the Sonora Grill; 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 spoke out at the meeting.

“(Restaurant owners) shouldn’t have the right to tell me what to do,” Hasratian said. “A restaurant is a totally different concept than a food truck.”

None of the restaurant owners attended Tuesday night’s meeting, but a few Top of Utah citizens in favor of loosening food truck restrictions made public comment.

Cameron Banner, of Riverdale, said he’d like to operate a food truck in Ogden as well, but not with the 200-foot restriction.

“Given that we are living in a free market, food trucks should be given every right to compete,” he said. “The 200-foot distance is too restrictive.”

Clinton resident Alyssa McNeil said food trucks provide another dining option for downtown patrons and help diversify the city’s food service industry.

Council members discussed the ordinance at length, wrestling with the decision of whether to adopt the ordinance with the restrictions included and revisit the issue in the spring, or to table the vote for another few weeks to allow time for the ordinance to be revamped. 

“(Bringing in) food trucks is great,” said council member Marcia White. “(But) I think what we’ve done here is maybe more restrictive than necessary.”

When it came time for a vote, the council adopted the ordinance as it was written by a vote of 5 to 1 and included the caveat that the issue would be monitored and re-evaluated in April of next year. Doug Stephens had the only dissenting vote, and council member Amy Wicks did not attend the meeting, having been previously excused.

Stephens said he felt waiting until April to re-evaluate the issue was too long.

“It’s our duty to come up with a strong ordinance,” Stephens said. “And we could have done that in the first part of September.”

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

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