New rules being considered for Cottonwood mobile food vendors

Chef Jason Marchese opens up Jersey J’s Food Truck near the Cottonwood Airport Industrial Park on Tuesday morning where he is back serving his “gourmet creations” during lunch hours on Tuesday through Sunday. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

Chef Jason Marchese opens up Jersey J’s Food Truck near the Cottonwood Airport Industrial Park on Tuesday morning where he is back serving his “gourmet creations” during lunch hours on Tuesday through Sunday. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

COTTONWOOD -- A solution to allow mobile food vendors to operate regularly in Cottonwood is closer, but it's not here yet. Last Tuesday, the city council reviewed the 11-page ordinance proposed to become city law.

Cottonwood has permitted food carts and truck, but the process has been a bit of a struggle. Operators have been sent through the conditional use process. The new ordinance was intended to make it easier but also make the regulations more specific. But the word from the council after it was presented is that it was too wordy and needs to be streamlined and easily digestible.

A neighborhood struggle with the operation of Gunner's Pit BBQ operated by Tamara Jarvis in the parking lot of the Main Stage originally set the program into development. The council agreed that Cottonwood needed to encourage such operations, while decided it also needed to establish some regulations for their operations.

A single-page ordinance titled "Street Vendors" would be replaced by new chapter called "Mobile Vendors and Transient Merchants."

The ordinance anticipates a variety of operations from carts to full food trucks. Typically a business would be permitted for a temporary use or for special event. A permanent operation at a specific location would continue to need a conditional use permit.

But, the location would also be considered, either on undeveloped property or on public property or in the street rights of way.

Operations such as ice cream trucks would be allowed to start and stop in residential neighborhoods, but not in the urban core.

There would also be guidelines for public places and even for clusters of food trucks.

Tim Elinski, who was present at the work session by phone, was the first to worry about the code being overly restrictive.

"I don't want to miss the boat on this opportunity," he said.

"I like that it controls the playing field," said Councilman Randy Garrison, "but page after page, we are taking a thing and making it enormous. You are even shutting down all access next to a parade."

Garrison said, "We need to create some exemptions, such as the Lions Clubs at the Christmas Parade. He also worried about constitutional issues when for-profit businesses are segregated from non-profits in the regulations.

Long Range Planner Charlie Scully admitted, "It's one of our most restrictive codes. It is partly a legal document, covers the city's liability."

Jesse Dowling, who has also supported the concept of food trucks, said there should be some opportunity for streamlining.

He said he has been in contact with the operator of a food truck, who tried to get in business in Cottonwood. He eventually moved to Colorado where he writes that he is operating freely.

The planning department was asked to re-work the ordinance.

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