The City Council may be heading back to the drawing board on an ordinance that would raise food truck vendor licensing and parking fees from $500 to $4,250 after some vendors said they would be forced out of town if the rules go into effect.
The city had long ignored a law that limits metered parking to two hours per day. Now with the enforcement of the two-hour limit comes a conundrum for the city and the food vendors, who usually fed meters all day because the meters are in high-traffic locations downtown.
Members of the City Council and Parking and Transportation Director Ian Sacs have crafted legislation after studying ordinances from at least 15 other cities across the country. The new ordinance was introduced by the council at the Nov. 14 meeting, meaning it has to be passed a final time at a meeting before going into effect. However, it is likely that the ordinance will be revised before it is presented again, according to Councilman David Mello, who is the head of the council’s Transportation Committee.
“This wasn’t built in my financial plan.” – Hoda Mahmoodzadegan
There are approximately 16 motorized food truck vendors operating in the city, and as part of the ordinance, the total number of permits issued would be capped at 25. Sacs said that if there is a demand, the cap could be raised.
The major beef that some food truck owners had with the ordinance is the spike in fees. The current $500 permit was designed for use by a non-motorized vendor, like a hot dog cart, Sacs said.
As part of the fee, vendors will be able to park at meters for up to four hours per day instead of the two-hour law enforced on regular parkers. After that four-hour time at a meter, the truck can move to a business permit parking area for an additional four hours.
The new total cost for fees and permits for a motorized food truck vendor, as proposed, would be $4,250. There are three components to the fees. The city will allow vendors to park at meters for up to four hours instead of two for $1,250. An authorized mobile vendor fee that covers administration and enforcement of the rules will cost $2,500. Finally, a health permit will cost $500.
Arguments between food truck vendors and storeowners began even before the meeting officially started. Restaurant owners sometimes complain about food trucks parking in front of their stores.
The trucks would also not be allowed to park within 100 feet of a restaurant.
GPS on trucks
As part of the legislation, global positioning system units would be installed on food trucks to help with the enforcement. Councilwoman Jennifer Giattino, who ran the subcommittee meeting, said that the location of the trucks could even be posted on the city website to help customers locate their favorite truck. Sacs said that a portion of the increase in fees will be used to help cover the administrative cost of enforcement.
Jason Scott runs the Taco Truck in downtown Hoboken. He says he currently has trouble finding parking.
“You guys are talking about limiting where we can park even more than what currently exists,” Scott said.
Hoda Mahmoodzadegan is planning on opening a new vegetarian food truck in Hoboken within the next two weeks. She said she left her corporate job to pursue this venture.
“I don’t have this money,” she said about the proposed fees. “This wasn’t built in my financial plan.”
Adam Sobel, who runs a vegetarian food truck called The Cinnamon Snail, said he would not be able to continue operating in Hoboken if this legislation passes.
“This is going to take away the 4,000 some odd people who follow me on Facebook and come to this town who would never come to Hoboken,” he said.
Another part of the legislation would say that if the truck does not operate for 14 days, the license can be revoked. This portion of the law caused concern for Sayed “Ali” Gomah, who has operated a truck on Newark and River streets for the past 17 years.
“I work hard; am I not entitled to take a long vacation?” Gomah wrote in an email to The Reporter. “What if I want to go away for three weeks? What right does the city have to dictate my vacation time to me? I don’t work for the city.”
However, Sacs said that if the vendor notifies the city about the vacation, they could be exempted from the rule.
Rory Chadwick, a retail storeowner in Hoboken, said he has concerns about the food trucks parking at metered spots all day because those spots should be reserved for store visitors.
Some in the meeting even entertained the idea of putting the trucks in one designated spot. But Sacs said that if the city were to lease certain spaces in the city, there would have to be a competitive bidding process for spaces that would likely end up costing the vendor more than the $4,250.
Mello said at the end of the meeting that a revised ordinance will likely be presented at a later meeting, and this process may take “a while.”
“The two people sponsoring this are pretty much of the opinion that this will have to go back to first reading,” Mello said, meaning that a revised ordinance will likely come before the council again.
The subcommittee planned to take the feedback from the meeting on Tuesday and review the legislation to present it to the council at a later date.
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com