The discussion surrounding the original food truck ordinance was an exhausting effort, but the slight modification Newton City Council made to the code on March 21 was refreshingly brief, taking no longer than eight minutes. The council then waived the second and third readings, and adopted the changes on the spot.
The alterations now allow food truck operations in city parks and rights-of-way in the downtown square in Newton. Council member Vicki Wade recalled the last conversation about food trucks was a particularly “drawn out topic,” so she asked staff if the proposal is as straight forward as she thinks it is.
Erin Chambers, director of community development, confirmed the changes are indeed as straight forward as Wade had hoped they would be.
“Yes, it is as simple as you’re reading it to be,” Chambers said. “…You know, ordinances evolve over time. Ordinances evolve to meet the needs of the community. And so at times when ordinances are written we can’t anticipate issues until we actually enact them.”
Newton Mayor Mike Hansen said one of the more unique things about local government is when it put ordinances in place and learns from them, the city has the “opportunity to correct them or add to them in a relatively short period of time.” The original food truck ordinance passed in January.
Community development staff worked closely with Newton Fire Chief Jarrod Wellik and determined there is enough adequate space between the face of buildings downtown to the curb in the town square area to allow food truck operations. Chambers said it is a safe and appropriate approach.
The downtown square area is more than just the streets surrounding the courthouse. City documents say the square is bounded by:
• The centerline of East Second Street North and South;
• The centerline of South Second Avenue East and West;
• The eastern boundary of the north-south alley right-of-way in the 200 blocks between North Third Avenue West and South Second Avenue West; and
• The centerline of North Third Avenue East and West.
Chambers said the food truck ordinance was initially written to not allow operations in residential districts. Most city parks are located in residential districts. Staff can envision scenarios — such as the summer concert series —where it might ideal to host a food truck.
“Initially, the thought was to try to keep those commercial uses out of neighborhoods and parking on the streets and parking on people’s properties. With the change in the language it allows for those type of food trucks usage in our parks, but not on residential use properties,” Chambers said.
Although the park board couldn’t meet on March 16, the members did express a general support for mobile food units in city parks at their February meeting. The planning and zoning commission unanimously recommended council approve the proposed amendments as written.
Minutes from the commission’s March 8 meeting show all members supported the changes. Jane Johnson, a member of the city’s planning and zoning commission, sees the benefit of allowing operations downtown and said it would be a good idea for local businesses to partner with food trucks for special events.
In order for property owners in town to host food trucks, they must first apply for a premise permit with the city. Since the city is not exempt from this rule, staff will have to apply for premise permits in each park that would host a food truck. Food trucks must also be approved for fire inspections.
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or email@example.com