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Council votes to extend freeze on food truck permits
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New food truck vendors will not be welcomed to Turlock any time soon, following the City Council’s decision on Tuesday to extend a temporary freeze on issuing new mobile food facility permits.

At their last meeting of the year, the City Council voted unanimously to extend the halt on the issuance of mobile food facility permits for a period of 10 months and 15 days. In November, the City issued a 45-day moratorium that saw the immediate freezing of any new food truck permits, which was set to expire on Dec. 27. With the approaching deadline and with the City not much closer to a final decision on whether or not food trucks will be allowed in the downtown area, the Council opted to extend the moratorium while discussions continue.

In the Dec. 5 Planning Commission workshop, the majority of the public opinion voiced during the meeting was against allowing the mobile food trucks in the downtown core, which runs primarily down Main Street from Palm to Lander Avenue.

The Turlock Downtown Property Owners' Association has made it clear during several public meetings on the matter that they would like to have food trucks prohibited from the downtown core, except during special events such as the Downtown Christmas Parade or Turlock Farmers Market.

TDPOA Administrative Assistant Dana McGarry has voiced that food trucks should only be temporarily allowed for such special events and not permanent structures in the downtown scene. Many members of the TDPOA, according to McGarry, have cited “unfair business advantages” as the main reason why the mobile facilities should not be allowed in the downtown, primarily noting a 42-per square foot extra tax placed on downtown business owners that goes toward the maintenance of downtown – a benefit that mobile food vendors are not required to pay, yet “reap the benefits of.”

Other matters such as parking have come about, as food truck Vida-Vital owner Christopher Shaun – who prompted the discussion after requesting a food truck permit to be located on Main Street – will be located in an empty parking lot. Shaun has noted that parking will not be an issue, as his truck would only take a portion of the parking lot, where he has full permission to be by the property owner. He also noted that his customers at Vida-Vital would only be there for 10-15 minutes each, as the nature of food trucks is to “grab and go.”

Although the City opted to extend the moratorium, Shaun continued to fight for his cause, saying that he is beginning to feel like a “poster child” for the issue.

“At first I thought this was about if we could keep it fair,” said Shaun. “Now I’m starting to wonder if it’s just becoming a barking issue. Now people are bringing up issues of parking, which I’ve said is not going to be an issue. I just feel like if it was a member of the TDPOA that was coming forward with this idea, of bringing a food truck to the downtown, then we wouldn’t be going through this right now. I’m starting to feel like a poster child now.”

Shaun’s business, Vida-Vital, was grandfathered in by the City in November, and is expected to soon be operating on Main Street across from Dustbowl Brewery. His food truck will offer healthy alternatives, including smoothies, fruit bowls, crepes and tapioca pearl tea.

“We’re extending the moratorium to have ample time for discussion,” said City Councilman Steven Nascimento. “I think it would be unfair to issue permits while we move forward with this process.”

According to City Planning Director Debbie Whitmore, the decision is not expected to take the full 10 months and 15 days. City staff is expected to bring forth a zoning ordinance amendment to the Planning Commission meeting in January 2014. Following the planning commission’s decision, the issue is expected to be brought to the City Council again by March 11, with a new amendment fully in place by April 24.