Some against food truck ordinance

Esther Noe
During the Hill City Common Council (HCCC) meeting  Feb. 27, the primary topic of discussion was the second reading of An Ordinance to Establish Regulations for Mobile Food & Beverage Vending. 
Developmental services coordinator Dani Schade read from the Planning & Zoning Commission (P&ZC) report that, “For the last several years, city hall has been contacted by food truck operators questioning how they may operate within the city limits. Those calls included residents of Hill City wanting to sell from a food truck: tacos, brisket and amazing Jamaican food. 
“The P&Z Commission developed this food truck ordinance over the course of six public meetings. Surrounding cities’ food truck ordinances were researched including Deadwood, Rapid City, Hot Springs and Spearfish. Care was taken during the ‘allowable times’ discussion in order to support our existing brick and mortar businesses, not hurt them.” 
The report went on to clarify seven common myths about the food truck industry based on research from The refuted myths listed included food trucks hurt the local restaurant industry, food trucks are unsanitary, food trucks don’t pay taxes, food trucks are a threat to public safety, food trucks leave their trash behind, food trucks create harmful sidewalk congestion and food trucks have an unfair advantage over brick and mortar restaurants.  
The first reading of An Ordinance to Establish Regulations for Mobile Food & Beverage Vending then took place at the HCCC meeting Feb. 13. During which the council motioned to allow food trucks a sandwich board and requested the clarification of the word “spot” when referring to the designated location. 
These changes were reflected in the second reading of the ordinance at the HCCC meeting Feb. 27. In response to the ordinance, the public had numerous concerns. 
Jessica Jacobs, owner of the Tin City Saloon, said, “One of my biggest concerns with this is parking because we already have a parking situation that hasn’t really been addressed and dealt with, and I strongly believe this will create further parking problems.” She did not see this concern addressed within the ordinance. 
She was also curious if any of the research was done in small towns like Hill City where small businesses rely on the summer tourist season to pay their bills through the winter. 
Another concern was that the licensing regulations for special events was different than daily usage. 
“Why aren’t we making this more apples to apples?” Jacobs asked.   
Additionally, Jacobs brought up concerns about the language used for operation hours, plans for dealing with enforcing trash rules and how the rules for sandwich board usage differed from commercial usage.
“My biggest concern at this point and time, because it’s not being voted into ordinance today, is how you plan on enforcing it and where the equality comes in for the existing brick and mortars,” Jacobs said. 
Jennifer Schmoll, owner of the Black Hills Bistro, agreed with Jacobs.
“The other thing I want to point out is the community that us brick and mortars bring here,” she said. “We live here. We spend our money here and we try to be open year round for the rest of the locals.” 
Schmoll expressed that the premise behind wanting food trucks was unclear to restaurants. While the food trucks would end in October,  Schmoll said, “We will be the ones that are here for you, and we are the ones who are trying. And we do have more skin in the game than anybody that talked about wanting to have the food trucks and thinks that there's a need for them.” 
After visiting with local restaurants about their struggles to stay open through the winter, Chuck Voorhees asked the council if anyone from the city government talked to the restaurant owners regarding their opinions on the food truck ordinance.  
“How much do they generate per year for this community? I think if you add it all up of all the restaurants, they probably deserve the right to at least be communicated with before making such a big decision,” said Voorhees. 
While not intending to offend anyone, Schade said that there was no point in talking to the restaurants because the response to a competitor coming in is usually no. 
The premise behind having food trucks, Shade explained, was the numerous calls from Hill City and Rapid City residents who had a food truck or wanted food trucks to come. The interest was also the result of community members who cannot get carryout or a table during the summer due to the wait and local employees who need a quick option for meals.
“So food trucks fill a need that the restaurants cannot or are unable to due to the sheer volume of people that come to our town every summer,” said Schade.  
Schmoll objected saying that the restaurants are not always as busy as some believed, and that “the food truck wait time is not fast food. Everybody knows you’re still going to be standing there in line for 20 minutes just like it is anywhere else.” 
She felt that the information on wait times was not exactly accurate and that speaking to the business owners would provide more accurate feedback. Jacobs added that some of the new restaurants opening would help fill the void as well. 
Another concern was who would enforce the ordinance rules for food trucks, especially on the weekends. Schade said she expected to hear from someone in town if the rules of the ordinance were broken because she has always heard about problems in the past. However, those in attendance objected saying that it was not their job to report back to the city. 
In light of this discussion Alderman Dale Householder motioned to table the ordinance, and his motion was unanimously approved by the council.
“I really think hearing from some of the people that it warrants more thought and some more research,” said Householder. “I really want to thank both sides. They brought  up some good points on both sides.”
Although the following agenda items including An Ordinance Amending Title 3, Chapter 3.09, Licensing & Regulation of Transient Merchants as well as the resolution on Establishing Permit Fee for Mobile Food and Beverage Vending needed to be tabled due to their correspondence with the food truck ordinance, alderman Jason Gillaspie recommended presenting them to the public to obtain their feedback. 
This was the second reading of An Ordinance Amending Title 3, Chapter 3.09, Licensing & Regulation of Transient Merchants and it proposed a minor word change to the existing ordinance. 
Mayor Kathy Skorzewski said “In order to successfully have the food truck ordinance, you have to then modify our current transient vendor ordinance to accommodate the food trucks.”
There was no public comment directly addressing this change.
For the agenda item Establishing Permit Fee for Mobile Food and Beverage Vending, Schade said, “We looked at surrounding  communities, and the commission settled on a yearly permit fee of $200.” 
In comparison to other locations, Schade said that this fee was “right in the middle.”
While one public attendee suggested that knowing the wording of the final food truck ordinance would allow them to better form an opinion on the topic, another was concerned that the current proposed cost was too low. With that, the resolution was tabled. 
Another topic of discussion was the conditional use permit application by David Holmgren and Isaac Almanza for a residential rental on the corner of Oak Street and Main Street. The building was formerly a real estate office with an apartment in the rear. 
Schade read, “The apartment usage predated the updating of Title 9 HCMC in 2014, and was a ‘grandfathered usage.’ An approved conditional use permit for monthly or longer residential rental will bring this property into compliance.”
The residential space is the equivalent of a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with a basement, kitchen and office and will now be connected to the Subway restaurant. 
“The proposed land use does not conflict with the intent or goals of Hill City’s Comprehensive Plan. Applicants are applying for the conditional use permit to utilize the rear apartment, legally, within this zone,” Schade continued. 
Parking was evaluated and meets the requirements for combined commercial and residential use. Applicants plan to rent the residential space on a month to month basis or for longer periods. Additionally, certified letters were sent to surrounding properties per requirements of state law. 
The P&ZC reviewed the application and all members were in favor. There were no comments brought to city hall or the council regarding the request. The council unanimously approved the application as presented. 
The next meeting of the HCCC is Monday, March 13 at 5:30 p.m. at city hall.

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