Champaign seeking public input on food-truck regulations

Champaign seeking public input on food-truck regulations

Restaurant questions? Ask 'em here

CHAMPAIGN — The way Dave Saam sees it, mobile food trucks such as his do more than provide additional dining options.

They boost economic development in areas where they set up shop.

"Customers are very positive toward these," he said. "Studies that have been done about food trucks are that they increase vibrancy of an area. They increase economic development of the area."

Saam, owner of the mobile wood-fired pizza business Dragon Fire Pizza, is among food-truck owners and others invited to express their opinions about how these restaurants on wheels are being licensed and regulated in Champaign.

The city plans to hold a public meeting on food-truck regulation at 2 p.m. Feb. 19 at the City Building, 102 N. Neil St., with an eye on possible changes.

Champaign's food-truck program started on a trial basis in 2012. Now that food trucks have had some years of experience operating under current guidelines, the city wants to hear about how well the program is working and whether there needs to be changes made in such rules as where and when food trucks can operate, according to City Clerk Marilyn Banks.

Saam said he believes the city's food-truck program is doing well, but he would like see a broadening of locations — which under current city ordinance are limited to seven spots in downtown Champaign and Campustown for mobile food businesses licensed as food trucks.

Some food trucks that set up shop elsewhere are licensed under different sections of city code.

Urbana, for example, allows food trucks to park at about any meter that isn't designated as a maximum two-hour meter — as long as the businesses feed the meters or rent bags for them at $19 each, don't park right in front of a business or storefront or near a busy intersection, and don't get in the way of a bike lane or block the visibility of a crosswalk.

In Champaign, "right now, it's fairly limiting where food trucks can go," Saam said.

Alven Allison, who operates the mobile popcorn and shaved ice business Cool Bliss Popped Bliss, would also like to see the potential locations in Champaign broadened, he said.

And while the city is asking for opinions, Allison said, he would like to see city officials consider giving local food-truck businesses an edge over out-of-towners for special events.

"I think with the events that the city has, I wish the city would try to get more of us local guys," he said.

Among Champaign's ordinance requirements, licensed food trucks can only operate in designated vending areas between 6 a.m. and 3 a.m. And they can remain in one spot only for up to four consecutive hours. They can return to the same spot, but only after two hours have passed after they drive away.

Food trucks also can't be parked in a way that blocks, obstructs or interferes with traffic. They can't set up dining areas with tables, chairs or tents in their vending areas, and their signs can't be any larger than 6 square feet.

The city also restricts the noise level of food trucks to 75 decibels at 10 feet away. That noise level is said to be about how loud it is inside a vehicle on the highway, and slightly quieter than running a garbage disposal.

Those with something to say about food-truck regulations who can't make it to the public meeting are invited to email their comments, according to the city clerk's office. Email comments by 5 p.m. on Feb. 21 to cityclerk@champaignil.gov.

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