A request from a mobile food vendor to operate on town-owned land has once again stirred the pot.
The owners of Sum Shockin’ Good Food Truck wrote a letter to Smithers council asking to park a couple of times a month in the ice rink arena parking lot; Chandler Park and the museum.
Currently, mobile vendors are only permitted to be located on private property with the written permission of the owner.
It was back in 2011 that another, former, mobile food vendor caused controversy when wanting to park on Main Street, and the council at the time, considered making a large buffer between mobile and fixed restaurants.
There was public outcry on both sides and the buffer remained at 30 metres.
The bylaw was also bent this year for the Smithers and District Chamber of Commerce’s food vendor to keep their mobile business in one spot because it is operated by youth who don’t always have access to a truck to move it.
The bylaw currently states a mobile food vendor can’t be set up for longer than two consecutive days per week in one spot.
At the regular meeting of council Nov. 22, all of the councillors agreed that Sum Shockin’ Good Food’s request was too broad and no one was comfortable with giving the owners cart blanche to operate in those areas, whenever and wherever.
Coun. Laura Leonard was worried that giving them access to all the locations they requested would be precedent-setting.
“And so what stops the next 10 trucks from coming in and wanting the same?” she questioned.
She also noted it would be very difficult to monitor when and where they were operating.
Coun. Frank Wray first tabled a motion to grant permission for a period of one year for Sum Shockin’ Good to do business on town land in the general areas requested, provided the bylaws were followed. and have staff delegate authority for when and where the business is allowed to operate.
He said the idea behind the motion was not to deter the business while giving the town a year to straighten out the bylaws for food vendors operating on town land.
However, his motion did not pass with most of council agreeing that it would be a waste of town staff’s time to police it.
“So I kind of see where you’re going,” Mayor Gladys Atrill said. “Let’s crack it open a little bit. I’m okay with that. But I prefer just to see this come back with a staff recommendation on how we can make it work.
“Staff heard from us with the food stand that went in front of the Bulkley Brewery, like we cracked the regulations there, made it a little bit broad. So I think, at least previous council indicated, we’re willing to hear we need to be more flexible with food vendors than we were in the past.”
Atrill added that she thinks food vendors add a liveliness to downtown.
“Even though we’re struggling a bit with this, from my perspective, it doesn’t come out of a desire not to have them, it’s just to figure out a process that’s actually reasonable and doesn’t create a dilemma,” she said.
A motion was then made to ask staff to come back to council with recommendations on how to deal with Sum Shockin’ Good’s request, which was carried unanimously.
A second motion was made and also passed to refer the topic of mobile vendors to the Standing Committee on Strategic Priorities.