Summit County Council still wary of food trucks in the Basin | ParkRecord.com

Summit County Council still wary of food trucks in the Basin

The Summit County Council passed an ordinance on Wednesday to regulate the operation of food trucks and mobile food courts in the Snyderville Basin. The County Council continues to be wary of the impact food trucks could have on existing restaurants in the area.

The Snyderville Basin food scene could soon be expanding to include food trucks and mobile food courts.

The Summit County Council passed an ordinance on Wednesday that would regulate the operations of mobile food vendors in the Basin. County Councilor Chris Robinson did not attend the meeting.

The County Council is somewhat limited in its ability to regulate the industry, which was concerning to elected officials. The state passed laws during the last two legislative sessions that limit a county or city's ability to require multiple licenses, permits or fees from food truck vendors, making it easier for food trucks to operate in various jurisdictions. The County Council has been wary about the allowance of food trucks because of the impacts it could have on the restaurant industry.

"This actually puts two different parts of the food industry at odds," said Council Chair Kim Carson. "I know in some instances they say food trucks will attract people to come in and patronize other businesses. But, I think we need to watch what kind of impact it has on the restaurants in the area."

While the county was unable to keep out the mobile food industry, elected officials were able to set regulations on how and when they operate. The county was not authorized to put limitations on food trucks' proximity to brick-and-mortar restaurants. The ordinance comes as officials in Park City have also grappled in recent months with regulating food trucks in light of the changes to the law.

Food trucks will only be allowed to operate on private property in areas that are defined as either resort or town centers. Vendors are prohibited in residential areas, unless a special event permit is secured for events such as private parties. They will be allowed to provide tables and chairs as long as they do not block public sidewalks or other public areas.

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The language in the ordinance emphasizes the temporary nature of food trucks. Operators will only be allowed to park in one location for up to 12 hours during a 24-hour period. The county will require a conditional-use permit for two or more food trucks to park together to form a food court.

Operators licensed in other counties are still required to obtain a secondary permit in the county for a health inspection. The inspection gives the Summit County Health Department the ability to close a business or remove it from the county if there is a violation. But, Phil Bondurant, environmental health director, said that may change in the upcoming legislative session. He said there is discussion about only requiring one health inspection, in the county out of which the operator is based.

"We won't have the authority to go and just do a random inspection unless there is a reason for us to go and visit," he said referring to changes that could be approved in the upcoming session. "It goes from being proactive to reactive health, which has been proven time and again to be the primary cause of foodborne illness outbreak. We are actually going backward in our public health approach to food trucks."

Some owners of brick-and-mortar restaurants in the Park City area have not been supportive of food trucks coming into the county because of the potential loss of customers, as well as the loss of sales tax revenues. The county is unable to require food truck operators from other jurisdictions to pay sales taxes here when they are presumably paying them where they are primarily registered.

"This will be a direct hit to our sales taxes," Carson said. "Their primary place of business is where the taxes will go. That's the way the rules are written."

Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, said he shares the same concerns as the County Council from a "brick-and-mortar" standpoint.

"We also recognize this is not going away," he said. "This is the reality of business today. Hopefully it can be managed in a fashion that doesn't cause undo consternation or harm to other businesses. The county is very cognizant that they can't outlaw them. But, if they make sure there are enough rules and regulations, they can protect as many people as possible in existing businesses."

Others have welcomed the variety of culinary options that food trucks may bring. Nick Gradinger, founder of Vessel Kitchen in Kimball Junction, said food trucks can be viewed as either complimentary to a restaurant or a threat. He's opting for the latter.

"We are huge fans of seeing small boutique food trucks doing new stuff and bringing new cuisine to the area," he said. "We are proud to be part of any type of movement that is providing more quality and affordable eats. Great restaurants are improving the culture of the town and giving us great places to eat when we are off work."

Gradinger said he embraces the competition food trucks may provide.

"The best concepts will prevail. If you are offering food that resonates with the population, you will do well," he said.

However, Gradinger hopes that food truck operators will take the same approach toward the restaurants that are already established as he has to them.

"I would hope that this doesn't translate into someone taking away four parking spots from us and intruding on the ability of other places to flourish as they have," he said. "You hope that as a resident of town and a business owner that it is adding to what Park City currently is and allowing it take the next step on the cultural level. We are going to operate under that assumption."