“Location” Key to Success of Food Trucks in Portland; Two More Meetings Expected by Task Force

Hill resident Doug Fuss Believes that Food Trucks Will be a Large Threat to Restaurants

By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,120)

“Location, location and location” continues to be the hot button issue for members of the Food Truck Task Force meeting yesterday morning at City Hall. Ancilliary issues crept into the l l/2 hour meeeting facilitated by city attorney Ann Freeman in the absence of Councilor Jill Duson, chair of the task force; this was its third meeting. But those issues will be taken up at future meetings.

The Food Truck Task Force was established by a committee of the City Council in early February. Its purpose is to recommend policy options or ordinance changes that will be submitted to the Public Safety and Health & Human Services Committee. Chaired by Ed Suslovic, the committee will then make its recommendation to the city council for its final up or down vote in May or June; hopefully before the vendor season heats up. Currentlly, food trucks are not permitted in Portland, although they are in surrounding communities, like Cape Elizabeth. Enthusiastic supporters of the inclusion include Andy Graham, Creative Portland, and Ron Gan, developer turned food cart vendor. People in the restuarant business or their representives are less enthusiastic fearing this new food venue will threaten ‘bricks and mortar’ restaurants. That discussion has permeated all the meetings.

The formation of a Food Truck Overlay Zone seemed to be the one idea that members agreed on. Gan said there are many places in Portland that are suitable for food trucks; including Compass Park on the waterfront and Kennedy Park. Graham suggested Spring Street, Bayside, Cumberland Avenue and the Eastern Promenade. Questions such as do we want food trucks in the parks, around schools and athletic fields by Graham. It was decided to focus on the peninsula for now because of its density. The “clustering” of food trucks is a good option because of the opportunity to share energy costs for the vendors.

Gan who has been successful with Skinny Cart Barbecue in locations after the nearby restaurants closed around 11:00pm or after pushed for that option to be considered in any new ordinance. However, Doug Fuss, owner of the popular Bull Feeney’s in the Old Port and representing the downdtown businessmen and a Hill resident said that when that discussion takes place there needs to be a law enforcement officer present to discuss the complications thereof with which he has had extensive experience. The discussion included food trucks renting from parking lots of private owners and complications thereof; Steve DiMillo, DiMillo’s on the Waterfront, said following the meeting that he would not be inclined to rent any portion of his large parking area to a food truck because during summer it is filled up with its own customers. Freeman will prepare a possible overlay zone display for next meeting and expressed an interest in receiving any “language” for the zoning.

The next meeting, the fourth, of this task force is set for April 27th at 9:00 am in the city hall. It is a public meeting with no testimony taken from the public. Please visit Post # 1,017, dated 4/9/11 for more information. The first meeting of the food truck food task force was held on March 6th; please see Post # l,097 for more details.

The street artist task force set up similarly by the Public Safety & Health & Human Services Committee in early February has met once – last month. The task force is chaired by Jennifer Hutchins. Please visit Post # 1,007, dated March 25th, herein for more on that task force.