Food for thought

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Pinedale council pursues ‘food truck’ ordinance

PINEDALE – Earlier this year, the Pinedale Town Council briefly discussed the idea of creating an ordinance for food trucks to operate in town and directed town attorney Ed Wood to create a draft ordinance. At Monday night’s meeting, the council passed the first reading of that ordinance.

“Fundamentally, the town needs to ask itself, ‘Do we want people driving around town, selling food out of trucks?’” said mayor Bob Jones to open the discussion.

For most of the council, the answer was yes. But not everybody was so sure.

“I’m torn both ways,” said councilman Matt Murdock, worried it could “hurt our local businesses and help those who drive in from out of town. … At the same time, I think it would be helpful.”

Councilman Tyler Swafford cited the conversation “five or six years ago” when the issue was first brought up.

“The discussion went back to, ‘How much does this hurt local restaurants?’ and that’s really the crux of the issue to me,” he said.

“Competition is a beautiful thing,” Jones said. “If you’re serving the best hamburger in town and it comes out of a truck and I’m serving in a restaurant, I’m going to step up my game. Competition can hurt in the short term but in the end, the cream’s going to come to the top.”

Murdock, while still torn on the issue, acknowledged that there are benefits to a cheaper dining alternative.

“More competitive prices makes it so families can go out more,” he said.

The ordinance drafted by Wood addresses three types of vendors – food stands, food trucks/trailers and ice-cream trucks.

In its current form, food stands and trucks/trailers are allowed to operate on public or private property that’s commercially zoned “with written permission” and are not allowed to be operated on any “public sidewalk, street, alley or right-of-way unless otherwise allowed.” And operators must have that written permission in their possession while they operate.

Similarly, ice-cream trucks are given similar stipulations but with the added requirement that they stay in one place no more than 15 minutes.

All operators would also be in charge of keeping the surrounding area clear of “rubbish, refuse and/or liquid waste” related to operations.

One resident, who owns a food truck, voiced reservations about the proposed ordinance’s details – or lack thereof.

“There’s just a lot of gray area – a lot of gray area,” she said, adding that she’s traveled all over with her food truck and seen plenty of regulations that seem to work, including daily fees, distance requirements from nearby brick-and-mortar eateries, and constraints on where customers can line up for service in order to “keep it contained so nobody gets run over.”

The council listened intently to the suggestions and ultimately passed the first reading of Ordinance 628, entitled Food Vendors, knowing that it’s a work in progress.

“If you have comments for Ed, please email him,” Jones told the council.

The council is also hoping members of the public with suggestions, opinions and thoughts on the issue will show up at the next meeting on July 24 to get in on the discussion and help shape the ordinance before its third and final reading.

In other news from the meeting:

  • Following the 4-1 passage of the first readings in June, the town council changed course and shot down two ordinances on the second reading that would have cut salaries for the town’s elected officials.

“The reason I voted against this the last time – I don’t see how this does anything for our budget,” said Swafford, who was the sole opposing vote in June. “I don’t think it’s right to penalize the next possible mayor or possible council people. I just think it’s a spiteful move to the next administration and I don’t think it’s right.”

“I don’t like to see (the cut) right now because I think our economy is coming up,” said councilwoman Nylla Kunard. “And if we’re going to do this, I would rather see it come up next April.”

If the council were to pass the ordinances, the changes would not take effect until after next year’s election and would only apply to the newly elected.

Instead, the council voted down the motion, 2-3, to cut the mayor’s salary in half, with Jones and Murdock as the only supporting votes. And the motion to cut council salaries died for a lack of second.

  • The council voted unanimously to move its $5 million “rainy day” fund to the Bank of Sublette County, since the town is currently paying $10,300 a year in fees with the Wyoming Government Investment Fund, according to town clerk Pat Schwab.
  • The council voted unanimously to end its contract with web host Civic Plus for the town’s website. The town is expected to unveil a new website through GoDaddy.com in the coming weeks.
  • The council voted, 4-1 with councilman Jim Brost opposed, to spend $4,000 for a storage container for town records.
  • The council voted unanimously to approve Jones’ two appointments for the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, including Landon Call and Sandy Wanfalt. Call is an officer with the Wyoming Highway Patrol and Wanfalt is a business owner.
  • As part of its effort to “clean up” town code, the council voted unanimously to approve, with minimal discussion, the second readings of four ordinance amendments that involve introducing articles into jail, missiles and slingshots, failure to close drinking establishments, and the discharge of firearms.
  • As part of that same effort, the council voted unanimously to approve the first readings of seven other ordinance amendments.
  • The council voted unanimously to approve the WYDOT grant application to move the pedestrian “HAWK” light from Lake Street down toward American Legion Park.
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