Columbia Looks to Address Food Truck Parking

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COLUMBIA - A new ordinance would allow food trucks throughout the city to park on spots along the street.

Bryan Maness is the owner of the three-month-old Ozark Mountain Biscuit Truck and has represented the Columbia Food Truck Association in discussions on the ordinance. He said the trucks simply don't have enough places to do business downtown.

"Specifically in the downtown area there's not a lot of private parking lots available, so it really restricts the amount of spaces that food trucks have to that specific vending area," Mayness said.

Columbia's Community Improvement District (CID), commonly referred to as The District, originally proposed the change despite having two restaurant owners on its board: Mike McClung of Quinton's and Deja Vu and Blake Danuser of Addison's.

Carrie Gartner, the executive director for The District, said the restaurant owners feel the food trucks actually help business.

"As it turns out there's a lot of restaurants that are thinking along the lines of 'How do we branch out with a food truck.' or 'How do we kind of create really a restaurant district where people think to come down here,'" Gartner said.

The risk of restaurants owners getting upset is one the city manager's office is trying to approach proactively. 

"A big issue in other communities is this sort of conflict between brick and mortar restaurants and mobile vending units and we're trying to avoid that and I don't see why there's any reason for that to occur," Lelande Rehard, a research fellow for the Columbia City Manager's office said.

Mayness said he hasn't seen any complaints from owners either.

"I think the downtown restaurant owners specifically realize that the more people who are coming downtown and see the downtown area as a viable dining option, that helps everyone out," Mayness said. "I think having food trucks in that area brings people into the general downtown, which they can also patronize other restaurants in the area as well."

To be able to park on the street, the trucks would reserve a spot with the city, then hoods would be placed over the meters at that spot and the truck would have to both feed the meter and pay the reservation fee.

The spots recommended by the CID and food truck association are all at least 100 feet from any restaurant and do not block any retail windows. The full list of spots and the list of requirements for a spot can be found on the CID staff report here

Mayness said the food trucks were careful not to pick spots close to other establishments.

"We wanted to look at downtown and be respectful of existing downtown business so we weren't putting food trucks too close to those locations, so we looked for area that weren't in the general vicinity of other restaurants and also areas that didn't have a lot of activity in them," Mayness said.

But it's one main issue that might stop the ordinance from going through.

"The concern is that food trucks might take up parking," Gartner said. "How do we get to a point where we reserve parking for these trucks without taking it out of the inventory?"

It's a concern that the city seconds.

"With more people coming downtown, parking is becoming a premium," Rehard said.

As of now, Rehard said the ordinance should be on the November 4 city council agenda for a first reading, with chances to be passed to start the year-long pilot program by the beginning of 2014.

 

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