Napanee may soon implement a licensing bylaw for mobile food vendors that would see more Town oversight on commercial food trucks operating in the town.
A newly updated report will come before the Town of Greater Napanee Council at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023, proposing that staff bring forward a Licensing Bylaw for Mobile Food Vendors and that Council direct staff to include complementary updates to the Zoning Bylaw in the next general housekeeping update to support the vendor licensing bylaw.
This updated report comes as a result of a discussion at the Tuesday, Jun. 27, 2023, Council meeting, at which concerns were raised that a licensing bylaw could compromise the legitimate difference in tax rates for operating a food truck versus running a permanent restaurant.
At that time, staff provided a report stating they had seen an influx of requests over the previous six months to operate food trucks on municipal property and requests to operate food trucks in areas currently prohibited under the Zoning Bylaw. These included “12 unique requests to establish mobile food vending in municipal parks (up from an average of three requests in years past), and three requests to establish a food truck as supplemental to a business where the zoning does not currently permit this use.”
In that report, staff identified that “the Town’s current practices are out of step with neighbouring municipalities as it relates to the regulation of food trucks.” The Town presently enters into lease agreements with food truck operators, who lease spaces in Town-owned parks and other properties. Beyond these lease agreements and location restrictions in the Zoning Bylaw, there is little oversight from the municipality.
Staff proposed that a licensing bylaw be introduced to better regulate the functions of food trucks and to identify locations in which they can and cannot operate. They also suggested the town consider removing the provisions relating to food trucks from the Zoning Bylaw and instead provide regulatory oversight through a licensing bylaw that would identify operational requirements and permitted locations (including density restrictions and proximity to restaurants serving similar foods) and address public safety matters related to the physical placement of a food truck on public or private lands.
In their new report, staff note that a license fee cannot be used in lieu of a tax or to level the playing field between commercial property taxpayers and food truck licensees. The license fee must be tied to the costs to administer and enforce the licensing system.
However, staff also note that for food trucks operating on municipal property, an annual rental fee is charged; this fee will be assessed on a regular basis to ensure it is near market rates. For food trucks operating on commercial property, that commercial property owner is contributing property taxes to the municipality.
Municipal leases are currently offered at Springside Park and Conservation Park. However, the survey also sought input on a number of other potential municipal properties where food truck leases could be offered, including other parks, sports fields, and lots. Rather than specifically list all lease sites, the proposed bylaw would empower the staff who administer these leases to add or subtract municipal lease locations each year based on vendor and community feedback.
Based on Council’s feedback, staff intend to bring a bylaw to a fall meeting for consideration; if adopted, it would require food trucks to hold licenses beginning January 1, 2024 (or the first day of seasonal operations in 2024).
License fees are proposed to be set at $100 to $300, depending on the type of vehicle, with a discount for early renewal.
Management of a licensing system will require input and inspections from multiple departments and is proposed to be coordinated by the Clerks department, according to the report, while lease agreements for park spaces will be managed by Community and Corporate Services Staff. The report suggests that having clearer guidelines should reduce the time spent responding to inquiries and proposals, although expanding the areas where food trucks are permitted to operate is anticipated to increase the number of applications to be processed.
Public engagement responses received were generally in favour of allowing more food trucks to operate in more areas within the community.