Tonawanda News

July 24, 2013

Tonawanda tables proposed food truck ordinance

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The fight over food truck rules that has plagued both Amherst and Buffalo came to the City of Tonawanda Tuesday night, but no action was taken after the council tabled a resolution that was aimed at keeping the vendors away from the most populated areas of the city. 

The matter came up after food trucks began setting up shop on Niagara Street near Old Man River and Mississippi Mudds, officials said. Although business owners took issue with the vendors operating near the restaurants, police couldn’t tell them to move without a city law backing them up. 

“This is to help police ... to have an ordinance to enforce,” Council President Carleton Zeisz said. 

The original proposed resolution Tuesday would have made it illegal for food trucks to operate within a 1,000-foot radius of any brick and mortar restaurant. The measure also specified an application fee of $1,000, and a $500 annual renewal fee. Trucks would also not be allowed to operate in the city’s parks. 

While North Tonawanda and the Town of Tonawanda don’t have food trucks ordinances on the books, Tonawanda’s proposed measure is much stricter than laws eventually passed after extensieve debate in Buffalo and Amherst.

In those municipalities, the mandatory radius is only 100 feet from standing restaurants. Amherst charges $400 for the initial application and $200 for a renewal, while Buffalo recently dropped its prices to $800 and $500. 

In light of that information, the council discussed lowering the radius requirement to 500 feet and the cost to a $400 annual fee. 

“1,000 feet is basically (saying) ‘don’t come here,’” Zeisz said. 

But a 500-feet radius would still keep food trucks off of Niagara Street and Main Street, and away from most of the other popular areas of the city. 

“I don’t know where they would go,” Councilman Blake Boyle said. 

Debate over the resolution led to some confusion over what the city is aiming to do. Clerk Janice Bodie summed up the issue, asking, “Do you want them here or not?”

Although there was no clear answer to her question, Councilman Richard Slisz and other officials spoke in favor of any radius that would keep the trucks away from Niagara and Main streets.

“We would be letting outsiders come in and take business away from locals,” Slisz said. 

But the attorney representing food truck operators, Mitchell Stenger, said most New York cities and towns have between a 50-foot and 100-foot radius. Before the start of Tuesday’s meeting, Stenger and Lloyd Taco Truck co-founder, Peter Cimino, said they were hoping to get the measure tabled. 

Their wish was granted at the start of the meeting, when Zeisz announced the council would further review the proposal at the request of City Attorney Ronald Trabucco. 

Stenger, who said his main concern is the radius requirement, is planning to submit written comments on the council’s proposal before the body’s next meeting.

After the regular meeting, the council met with attorney Larry Rubin, who is representing the city in negotiations with Natale, the set developer for the planned housing development near Little League Drive. 

Negotiations over the contract began seven months ago, but Zeisz said an agreement should come before the council next month.