Like a hot potato, city drops food truck changes

Council members dropped their support for changing the food truck ordinance.

Opposition to allowing food trucks in Langley earlier in the year has eaten away city council support for a change in the ordinance.

During a council meeting last month, Langley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Inge Morascini asked the council to consider making adjustments to the ordinance in the wake of a busy, sunny weekend that brought an influx of tourists to the Village by the Sea.

Morascini said she had talked to a few business owners — but not all — and they had agreed food trucks might help alleviate some of the pressure short-staffed restaurants had been feeling that weekend.

The current ordinance allows food trucks to operate starting the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend until the day after Labor Day. Morascini had asked for the council to consider allowing them in the city sooner.

At the most recent council meeting Monday night, however, the support for amending the food truck ordinance has wavered.

A combination of slower weekends, other business owners’ objections to changing the ordinance and disinterest from potential food truck vendors may have rendered the issue moot.

Councilmember Dominique Emerson said that Morascini, in a letter to the council, withdrew her support for amending the ordinance, pointing out that it wasn’t representative of what all the Langley merchants or chamber members thought.

“The Chamber supports economic opportunity, but felt that the review should go through a more thorough process if the change were to become permanent,” Morascini said in an email to The Record. “Therefore, we rescinded our request with the city. We look forward to re-examination of the ordinance when the matter can be vetted and commented on by both citizens and businesses.”

David and Holly Price, owners of edit., voiced concerns in a letter to council about food trucks competing with restaurants, negatively impacting parking and downtown aesthetics.

“There are vacant storefronts in town,” the Prices wrote. “Does allowing for more temporary businesses create a disincentive to lease these spaces?”

Jenn Jurriaans, co-owner of Saltwater Fish House and Oyster Bar and Prima Bistro, said during the council meeting Monday night that the push to change the amendment may have been motivated in part by her reaction to one busy weekend.

“I am not opposed to food trucks at all, although after lots of talks with lots of other businesses in town, I realized that was not the resounding opinion,” she said.

A previously operating food truck, she pointed out, may have directed some business away from Spyhop.

She added that she wouldn’t want anything done that may negatively impact the other restaurants.

“We’re not all on the same page as far as what a food truck would bring to Langley,” she said.

On the other hand, council members noted some positive elements of the food trucks.

Emerson referred to them as “business incubators” that can help entrepreneurs to establish a brick-and-mortar storefront someday.

They can also be a less expensive food alternative for tourists visiting the city.

Councilmember Thomas Gill said he was not sure if there would be competition between food trucks and sit-down restaurants.

“Putting a barrier to somebody having a business opportunity, I think, would certainly qualify as something that should be removed in order to be an anti-racist city,” he said.

Mayor Tim Callison said that Langley had received no current interest from food truck owners wanting to operate within city limits now.

The council decided to ask the city’s Planning Advisory Board to re-examine the food truck ordinance and bring it forward to the council at a less critical point in time, such as fall or winter.

Council members, however, did agree to make some changes to the ordinance that Director of Community Planning Brigid Reynolds recommended.

The amendments have to deal with removing cumbersome requirements for food trucks operating on private property, which Reynolds said could be viewed as arbitrary, and clarifying who “an appropriate community representative” is, as stated in the code of the current ordinance.