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Committee seeks more info on food truck regs

Mobile restaurateurs may need to wait a bit to hit the streets of Portland with food trucks since a set of proposed regulations will be studied more closely.
The Food Truck Task Force last night presented its recommendations to the City Council's Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee. The group has been working since earlier this year to develop regulations to address the burgeoning food truck industry.
The committee felt that the recommendations made by the task force need a closer look before being ready to move to the City Council for a final review.
"It sounds like we've still got a few moving parts here," said Councilor John Coyne. He said after hearing the proposal and public comments, he thinks there are still some unanswered questions.
"I think it's important to have the opportunity to have the detail flushed out," said Councilor Jill Duson. She said if the committee takes the time to carefully address any questions about the proposal, it will be easier to win the support of the full council.
"I strongly support having food trucks in the city of Portland," Duson said, but there needs to be clear rules and regulations about how the businesses are managed.
The committee developed recommendations that address food trucks both on and off the peninsula.
The committee recommends food trucks be allowed to operate from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. in all parts of the city except for residential zones. The trucks would need to position themselves at least 65 feet away from a restaurant whose kitchen is still open later in the evening.
During daytime hours, the committee recommends that food trucks be limited to certain areas of the city.
The group has proposed a series of overlay zones that would include the Bayside neighborhood, the four-lane section of Spring Street, the western piece of Commercial Street from Park Street to the Veterans Memorial Bridge and the St. John and Valley streets area.
Despite the proposed overlay zones, food trucks would still be allowed to set up on private property with fewer spatial regulations, according to the committee's recommendations. Food trucks can be allowed on private property anywhere in the city as long as they are 65 feet away from an established restaurant.
The committee recommends that the city continue using its request for proposals process to allow vendors in Deering Oaks Park and Eastern Promenade but also create process to open up Compass Park for food vendors.
For off the peninsula, the idea is to allow food trucks in all the business zones with the exception of areas zoned for B-1 or B2 as well as industrial areas. Food trucks will need to position themselves at least 200 feet away from an established restaurant. The 200-foot setback applies to food trucks setting up on private property as well.
The committee also made recommendations about noise levels, licensing fees and inspections.
After the recommendations were presented to the committee, members of the public got a chance to weigh in and the ideas were met with both words of caution and support.
Chris O'Neil, of the Portland Community Chamber of Commerce, said the process to develop the recommendations has moved quickly and it's now time for the council slow down and take a careful look at the proposal.
"We recognize the value of the food truck scene in enhancing great food scene in Portland," he said, but it might behoove the committee to get more information on some of the logistics of the proposal.
Ben Berman said he's thought about setting up a food truck business in Portland but the problem is that it's not allowed. He said he's a student at Tufts and was first exposed to food trucks.
As a young entrepreneur, Berman said, it's frustrating that a town with a food culture like Portland doesn't allow food trucks.
"This will augment this amazing food culture in Portland," he said.

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