The City of Campbell River will take another crack at launching a food truck pilot project for its downtown core this summer after running out of time to pull it together last year.
The prospect of a food truck pilot project for downtown first came before council last May, but just as it was set to be approved and set into motion, council decided that more consultation should be done with downtown businesses before launching the project.
But by the time that consultation could have been done, there wouldn’t have been enough time left to recruit potential vendors and roll out the program to have it in place for July and August, so it got bumped to this year to give staff and council time to garner more feedback from the community.
That feedback came mainly in the form of a public online survey, which resulted in an overwhelming response from the community in favour of the food trucks, as well as in-person consultation with local downtown restaurants and businesses.
But the proposed restrictions on the vendors, many survey respondents said, was setting the project up to fail from the get-go.
The city’s proposal was that food trucks would have to remain at least 30 metres away from any open restaurant or cafe, not remain in one location for more than four hours and have an increased business license fee of $300 – double the standard business license fee.
City sustainability and long-term planning manager Amber Zirnhelt points out, however, that in comparing the city’s fee to other communities that have food truck programs, it’s actually pretty reasonable.
Comox has set its fee at $500 per month or $2,500 per year, for example, Zirnhelt says, which allows food trucks to set up alongside public parks.
And because Campbell River’s implementation is a pilot project at this point, those are things that can be looked at before a permanent program is put in place.
Zirnhelt says now that the pilot is moving forward for this summer, the next step is recruiting food trucks to take part.
“Now we’ll put out a request for expressions of interest for interested food trucks to apply to be part of the pilot,” Zirnhelt says. “We’d like to have between two and four trucks as part of the program. Then we’ll review applications and following up with local business owners in the food truck pilot area to touch base with them about concerns or opportunities that they may be able to identify that we can help them address.
“From there, we hope to have the program up and running in June,” Zirnhelt says.
But at least two local food truck operators say the restrictions are too severe and may hinder the city’s chances of getting applicants.
Katherine Pouliot and Terry Macleod both have problems with the regulations, based on letters attached to the report presented this week. The four-hour time limit, both say, is unreasonable.
Pouliot, who owns Cabane A Patates Poutine, says because Island Health requires all food preparation and cooking be done on-site – which takes time – and trucks can’t be moved again until cooking oil has cooled off, which takes more time after service is complete, they may only be able to actually sell food for about an hour and a half of the allowed time.
After the pilot concludes at the end of August, Zirnhelt says, they will again be looking for feedback from downtown businesses and restaurants, as well as the community as a whole.
“That will help inform whether we will continue to allow food trucks in the downtown and if the program becomes something more permanent,” she says.
Zirnhelt says they are in the process of setting up a specific email address for food truck concerns, questions or ideas, which is expected to be firstname.lastname@example.org, but until then, the department can be contacted by emailing email@example.com