Mount Vernon City Council Initiates Discussions Regarding Food Truck Regulations

The Mount Vernon City Council has initiated a dialogue regarding potential food truck regulations, even though no specific legislation is currently under consideration. During their meeting on October 9, council members engaged in discussions surrounding this topic.

Mount Vernon City Council Initiates Discussions Regarding Food Truck Regulations

Councilman Mike Hillier disclosed that the subject had arisen due to inquiries from local restaurant proprietors regarding whether food truck vendors are subject to income tax and required to hold licenses. An additional concern pertains to the freedom of food trucks to operate in any location they choose, particularly their proximity to established restaurants.

Hillier cited the example of Honey Buckets, a local business with food trucks, and raised questions about how to regulate their activities. He also mentioned a specific incident during the summer when a food truck was stationed in front of 117 E. High St., which he found visually unappealing for one of the city's main streets.

Hillier emphasized that the intention is not to target food trucks participating in organized events like the recent food truck rally on Public Square. Organized events require permits issued by the city, with the health department scrutinizing vendors' licenses and compliance.

Nonetheless, Hillier expressed a belief that some form of enforcement should be established to ensure food truck vendors pay income tax, similar to traditional brick-and-mortar establishments. He stressed the need for further discussions and potential actions in this regard.

Regarding enforcement, Law Director Rob Broeren mentioned that food trucks must acquire a peddler's license through the safety-service director's office. Additionally, vendors must undergo inspections by the county health department and the fire department. Broeren clarified that zoning rules dictate where food trucks can set up, and several have been relocated due to zoning violations in the past 18 months.

Concerning the enforcement of licenses and inspections, Broeren noted that there is no specific professional license bureau responsible for this. The responsibility has been delegated to the safety-service director, and enforcement occurs on an as-needed basis.

Hillier pointed out that Granville imposes a $200 fee for food truck operations, which could be used to offset enforcement costs, whether handled by city employees or outsourced. Granville enforces its regulations through its property maintenance enforcement officer, and they require property owner consent for food trucks to operate on the premises.

Council President Bruce Hawkins emphasized the importance of fairness to brick-and-mortar restaurants in the city. He suggested that while food trucks meeting all requirements should not be prohibited, fairness to those adhering to established regulations must be maintained.

Councilman James Mahan expressed the need for careful consideration, particularly when it comes to preserving a level playing field between food trucks and traditional restaurants. He noted that food trucks had been a solution to certain challenges, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing meals when traditional dining options were limited.

Mahan pointed out that food trucks in the industrial park and at Mount Vernon Nazarene University serve a vital role, addressing the needs of employees unable to leave for meals due to time constraints or shift work.

Hawkins underscored the importance of ensuring that any legislation, if passed, can be effectively enforced, ensuring practicality and compliance.

Council members scheduled further discussions on this matter during a committee meeting to be held on October 23.

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