CHAMPAIGN — The city of Champaign plans to revisit the issue of how it lets food-truck vendors operate.
Currently, certain food-truck vendors are registered as peddlers and aren't allowed to stay in one location very long, unless they're on private property.
But the city council has agreed to discuss in late June whether broader allowances should be made for vendors, perhaps letting them operate along city streets for longer periods.
Several food trucks operate in the Champaign-Urbana area, including Derald's, Hawaiian Ice, Mas Amigos and the Crave truck.
Another food truck, called Cracked, plans to begin business in the campus area this fall.
Champaign's assistant planning director, Rob Kowalski, said the city ordinance governing peddlers limits where food trucks in that category can operate.
"In order to operate on right-of-way, they have to stay mobile, move every 5 minutes or so, and that's not the desire of most food trucks," he said.
Currently, food trucks can operate from private property as long as the land is zoned appropriately for them, he said.
Some food trucks have operated from private parking lots along South Neil Street and North Prospect Avenue.
But the city realizes it needs to take a broader look at the issue.
"Existing rules don't accommodate mobile food trucks as they currently operate in most communities," he said.
"With the growing interest in mobile food trucks," the city wants to study the issue and see if it can find better answers, he said.
The two big questions are where vendors can operate from and for how long, Kowalski said.
"Many communities are wrestling with the questions and considering the impact to businesses in their downtown areas," he said, noting the town of Normal is among them.
Kowalski said Champaign Mayor Don Gerard initiated the request for a study session, now slated for June 26.
City staff plans to work with the Champaign Center Partnership to get input from merchants in the downtown and campus areas, he said.
Staff will also contact vendors to understand their interests, where they want to locate and at what times, he added.
The matter was prompted in part by Crave, which had a peddlers license for the year that ended April 30, City Clerk Marilyn Banks said.
That license allows vendors to stay in one place only long enough to sell to those wanting to buy — much the way old-fashioned ice cream trucks used to do. When customers evaporate, the truck must move on.
Crave was interested in setting up at city parking meters or on city parking lots, and current Champaign ordinances don't allow that, Banks said.
Plus, the city charges a $225 fee for each peddler making sales.
Banks said Crave came to renew its license but pulled the application after learning the requirements.
Banks said other food trucks in Champaign don't fall into the peddler category. Hawaiian Ice, BoBo's Barbecue and Mas Amigos were exempted from having transient-merchant licenses because they set up on private property for more than 30 days, she said.
Other food trucks, such as Derald's, operate only in Urbana and not in Champaign.
Jeremy Mandell, co-owner of Cracked, said his food truck could benefit from parking in metered spaces if Champaign decides to make that change.
Kowalski said Urbana, unlike Champaign, allows mobile food trucks on city right-of-way. There's a fee to bag parking meters, and the vendor pays that, he said.
Elizabeth Beaty, office manager for Urbana's Finance Department, said Derald's, for example, pays $15 a day per meter to park along Mathews Avenue in Urbana, close to the University of Illinois Quad.
Another business, Shanghai 1938, has also applied to operate a mobile unit on Mathews Avenue, beginning July 9, she said.
Beaty said mobile food vendors in Urbana must be licensed through the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District and get a mobile food vendor license from the city. The license is $55.
The vendor can operate from place to place, at a fixed public location or at a fixed private location. Those operating from place to place need a solicitors license with a base fee of $50 a year. Those operating from a fixed public location need to reserve a place and pay the bagged-meter fee.
Those operating from a fixed private location need to register with the city clerk, with no fee to register, Beaty said.