Kudos to Kitchener City Council for unanimously supporting the motion by Councillor Berry Vrbanovic to create opportunities for food trucks to operate daily.
I’ll include link(s) to the motion or media reports on it when I have them:
The motion is to create a number of food truck zones for this summer at places such as McLennan Park. Then to have formal dialogue with stakeholders including the city’s Business Improvement Areas on how to move forward.
Unanimously approved by Council, the motion is a significant improvement over the staff report submitted to Council that was little better than the status quo that kept food trucks as a novelty in the city.
Another positive development was that Council got lots of great information about the food truck business and the costs involved. For example, how in addition to paying an annual business license, operators are buying a special event permit for every one they do at $750 each. Or that they need to pay to park/store their food trucks at a cost of $1,000 – $4,000 a month–an amount that includes property tax.
The presentation and discussions took 2 hours rather than the 30 minutes scheduled. Chair Scott Davey said that indicated the importance of the issue had been underestimated by the city.
Is it enough? No
I had a brief chat with some of the food truck business owners. They are very happy with the significant progress made. They see opportunities to run their business in Waterloo Region without needing to also operate in Hamilton.
From my perspective, I don’t think the city has gone far enough yet.
None of the food truck zones in the motion are in the downtown core. One, the former Bramm Works Yard is just outside of the official BIA, but it is only a “possible” location. Still Mayor Zehr was uncomfortable with that possible zone due to its proximity to the BIA (which now includes the Tannery but did not until fairly recently). Downtown Kitchener needs food trucks.
So while we’re likely to see more food trucks in Kitchener this year, there won’t be any outside of special events in downtown Kitchener. While better than what was recommended, it’d be a real shame if that didn’t include any in downtown Kitchener nor in areas just outside of it such as the Civic District or near the playground/splash pad at Victoria Park.
Downtown does not need to be the only place for food trucks operate but food trucks should be able to operate downtown every day if one wants to.
At least one location should be piloted but I’m sure more could be identified.
Timing a challenge but it shouldn’t be
Admittedly, timing is a challenge with spring just around the corner.
I was disappointed to hear that staff could have a report ready by the next committee meeting. With new changes to receive reports sooner, they have 17 business days. That quickly became 12 days because some staff have vacation plans for March Break which should not really be a considered a reduction.
On the other hand it’s been about 8 months since the successful food truck festival in July. It was reasonable to expect that time to have been used to figure out how to expand food trucks in Kitchener.
Citizens of Kitchener and food truck operators have waited long enough, let’s expedite the progress made both today and hopefully Monday.