DeKALB – As the city of DeKalb evaluates significant changes to the municipal code, the DeKalb City Council took an interim step Monday by approving a temporary process to streamline food truck regulations.
DeKalb Community Development Director Jo Ellen Charlton said the hope is by implementing these changes for several special events scheduled this year, city staff will have enough data to present permanent city code changes that could be adopted for 2019.
“We want to take a look at how these things work in reality before we come back with an actual ordinance amendment,” Charlton said.
The resolution, which was unanimously approved by the City Council after two amendments were made, will allow two separate approaches to handling food trucks.
For a truck that is looking to operate during a special event within the city, no background check would be required. However, the truck would be require to go through all necessary licensing and permitting, such as a health department license and vehicle license. It would also be subject to a brief inspection by the city to confirm certain safety conditions are met such as the availability of fire extinguishers.
For a food truck that wishes to operate on a mobile basis, a background check would be required but the license would carry a reduced fee of a $50 application fee and a $50 inspection fee along with the standard background check fee. The license would also be in effect the whole calendar year.
Second Ward Alderman Bill Finucane made a motion to amend the resolution, giving the beta test a Dec. 31 sunset. The amendment was approved by a 6-2 vote with 4th Ward Alderman Patrick Fagan and 5th Ward Alderwoman Kate Noreiko voting no.
First Ward Alderman David Jacobson then proposed a second amendment to make in-town food truck operators the only ones eligible for certain fee reductions. This amendment was approved, 7-1, with Noreiko, who had asked to table the motion until city staff had time to determine if there were any legal issues in doing so, voting no.
“I don’t think we should open the doors to a lot of competition that will hurt local businesses,” Jacobson said.
City code changes were first considered after the DeKalb Rotary’s “Trucktober” food truck event last year. During this event, the Rotary expressed concerns to the city about the permitting process for food trucks during special events.
More recently, concerns over how friendly the city was toward food truck operators were raised after Veronica Garcia-Martinez, co-owner and business manager for Tinez Tacos, voiced frustrations to the Daily Chronicle over the cost and meticulousness of the permitting process.
Under city code, any person who feels that the cost of licensing and investigation would cause a hardship can appeal to the mayor.
The mayor then can make a determination upon examination of the person’s financial records or other information he feels is necessary. If the mayor finds a hardship exists, he can reduce or waive licensing and investigative costs.
Jacobson said he does not feel that a $50 a month expense is unreasonable and it has allowed food trucks to operate without having to pay costs during less productive times of year, such as during the winter season.
Jacobson said the idea that the city didn’t help or wasn’t willing to aid was unfair targeting. In Garcia-Martinez’s case, he said that the city provided free rent at the farmers market and provided free utilities on the corner where she was operating.
The council also unanimously approved the third phase of the Safe Streets Initiative on Monday.
The newest phase would establish no-parking zones from 2 to 6 a.m. in a section west of North Annie Glidden Road along West Hillcrest Drive. The fourth and final phase would expand these restrictions to an area east of Annie Glidden Road covering Kimberly Drive, Greenbrier Road and Edgebrook Drive.
A layout of each phase of the initiative and information on how to apply for resident parking permits is available on the city of DeKalb’s website.