Summit County Council puts off decision on food truck regulations
Summit County is starting to receive pushback from restaurant owners who are concerned about mobile food trucks being allowed to operate in the Snyderville Basin, with those owning brick-and-mortar establishments worried about a potential loss of revenue and the county’s inability to collect local taxes from vendors.
The Utah Legislature made it easier during its last session for mobile food trucks to operate in multiple jurisdictions by restricting local governments from preventing vendors from operating in certain areas, prompting county staffers to draft an amendment to the Basin Development Code to address the use. The Snyderville Basin Planning Commission forwarded the amendment to elected officials in late July. The County Council reviewed the language on Wednesday.
Most Planning Commissioners were overwhelmingly supportive of the potential increase of food trucks in the area. Even County Council member Chris Robinson said food trucks could be desirable at private parks or events such as open houses.
But, those in the restaurant industry are more wary about the proliferation of food trucks in the county.
Penny Kinsey, owner of Blind Dog Restaurant & Sushi and member of the Park City Area Restaurant Association, said food trucks could take money away from brick-and-mortar establishments. She also addressed the potential loss of local taxes that restaurants are required to pay. Operators are only required to obtain a food truck permit in their primary location, which is determined by the home address of the applicant. Local taxes will only be collected in the primary location of the vendor.
“When I drive into Redstone and I see a food truck with 20 people standing in front of it and I see four or five restaurants nearby, I think about the money that is coming out of their pockets. It’s a huge concern,” she said at the meeting. “We feel like it is unfair for food trucks to be able to come within city (county) limits and not have to pay taxes.”
The county received a letter from Matthew Harris, chef and partner of Tupelo Park City. Harris stated he was “strongly against” any proposal to allow food trucks to operate in the Basin. He said it would be a significant blow to local food service operations.
“Food trucks are challenging to regulate via the Summit County Health Department and would increase county costs across the board,” he wrote. “We would be allowing these businesses that are not part of our community to be representing our community.”
County Council Chair Kim Carson said the state has unfortunately already made the decision to allow vendors to operate. She added, “The county has no way to demand they pay local taxes.”
“We aren’t allowing them,” she said. “They are already allowed.”
Carson said other counties have expressed similar concerns about losing revenue through local tax collection. She said there has been a discussion about exploring a point-of-sale option to collect from mobile food trucks. But, she acknowledged it would not help offset potential revenue loss for established restaurants.
“It would just make sure they are paying their fair share to our local communities,” she said.
County Council member Doug Clyde said he shares the concerns of restaurant owners. He said he wants people to frequent local businesses and pay taxes, but, unfortunately, “It has been taken out of our hands.”
Some of the regulations that the county can impose include limiting the locations where the food trucks could be operated and hours of operation as well as ensuring they adhere to specific design requirements. County Manager Tom Fisher was unsure whether the county can afford to dedicate resources to enforcing any regulations the county imposes.
The recommended ordinance suggests allowing mobile food businesses to operate on private property, but prohibits them in residential zones except when part of a special event or as part of a private party or function. Food trucks wouldnot be allowed to park in a location for more than 12 hours within a 24-hour period. But, vendors would be allowed to have outdoor seating and live music as long as it adheres to the Summit County noise control ordinance.
Vendors would be required to obtain a conditional-use permit and would be subject to inspection by the Summit County Health Department.
“I would really be in support of putting some time limitation so these things are essentially not set up as something that runs every year every day with the exception of one day,” Clyde said. “I see that as being problematic. I would like to suggest we get some research on these issues and see if there are any reasonable conditions that we can place that will give us control over safety, health and welfare issues.”
While County Council members agreed to table the issue, County Planner Ray Milliner encouraged the County Councilors to revisit the matter as soon as possible.
“As it is now, I’m assuming word will get out that state code allows them,” he said. “We need to do something so we can at least have some control.”
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