Whitefish is considering relaxing food truck regulations

The Whitefish City Council is considering changes to the municipality’s mobile food vendor regulations to make it easier to obtain permits and make managing them more efficient.

City Planner David Taylor wrote in his staff report that administering current rules regarding food trucks is time-consuming for staff and involves a cumbersome notification process that fails to attract public interest.

In addition, he said staff have received questions about the possibility of establishing a food vendor court on a vacant lot downtown, something current regulations do not allow.

Existing regulations for food vendors were amended in 2014 to allow food trucks to be operated on private property in commercial areas. Restrictions in the code address the number of vendors allowed, hours of operation, and prohibit the use of outdoor seating.

In the past, some people were concerned about the competition that food trucks would provide to brick and mortar businesses. Garbage generation was another problem faced by mobile food vendors.

“At the time, there was someone open late at night, but there are no more late-night food options in Whitefish,” Taylor said at a work session earlier this month. “After 9 or 10 a.m., you can’t get any food downtown.”

As for the issue of litter, Taylor suggested that allowing seating might help limit the amount of litter lying around.

“There’s a requirement in the current code that they have a trash can at every vendor. But because it’s grab-and-go, people don’t just stand there and eat it — they leave,” Taylor said. “That’s where the idea of ​​having some seating might lead Convert some vendors to reduce some of this waste problem.”

Taylor said he researched how other cities regulate food trucks and found that Missoula and Bozeman allow food trucks on sidewalks, parks and downtown streets. They are also allowed in private parking lots in commercial areas with minimal restrictions. Kalispell allows them to be in all zones that allow restaurants on private property without restrictions.

Sellers must obtain a business license, Department of Health inspection and proof of liability insurance.

During public comment, Justin Doll, director of development for Averill Hospitality, commented remotely and said he had experience with food vendors this summer.

“A lot of other towns have figured out a way to have food trucks in their community…and I think that has contributed well to the community,” Doll said. “There are a lot of times on Tuesday when I don’t go downtown for dinner, but if it’s really quick, I will and the same goes for lunch. I think updating these rules would be great.”

Councilor Ben Davis said he supports easing restrictions because food trucks provide variety and add to the local character of the city.

Possible changes to the code include eliminating restrictions on the number of vendors, hours of operation, bans on outdoor seating and public observation requirements. All health and safety rules will remain the same.

“And look at their administrative approval,” Taylor said. “Obviously they still need a business license, they need a fire inspection. We definitely want to continue to do those inspections on them.”

The council agreed and directed staff to draft less restrictive regulations for food trucks and submit the ordinance to the council for further consideration.

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