New Food Truck Bylaw Advances in Morinville Despite Split Council Vote

by Colin Smith

New measures to allow for the regulated operation of food trucks in Morinville are going forward despite the unhappiness of some council members.

At its regular meeting on Tuesday, May 28, council approved the first and second readings of the Mobile Vendor Bylaw.

First and second readings passed in a vote of four to three, with Mayor Simon Boersma and Deputy Mayor Jenn Anheliger, Maurice St. Denis and Ray White in favour and Councillors Rebecca Balanko, Stephen Dafoe and Scott Richardson opposed.

Originally brought to council by administration on April 23, the draft bylaw is a response to an increase in the number of mobile vendors that want to operate in the town, specifically food trucks.

It was presented as simplifying the regulations to support the operation of mobile vendors while the limiting their negative impact on local brick-and-mortar businesses.

At that meeting a number of councillors expressed concern about rigorous regulations for food trucks, considering the benefits they may also provide to the town.

Council passed a motion referring the bylaw to a future meeting and directing administration to amend the draft before bring it back to council, dropping provisions relating to use of the road right-of-ways along 100 Street and 100 Avenue.

When the bylaw returned to council, it was presented with two alternatives to the original: amending it to allow for mobile vendors to set up on the road right of way along 100 Street and 100 Avenue, or an amendment allowing vendor set-up on the road right of way of 100 Street only.

Both alternatives were not recommended by administration, on the basis, among other points, that this would offer town-owned land as a free place for mobile vendors to compete directly with rate and rent paying local businesses.

It was also pointed out that the town does not have control of 100 Avenue as it is a provincial highway, so would not be able to provide permission for vendor set-up.

In addition, according to the administration report, a review of current regulations showed that under Morinville’s land use bylaw mobile vendors require a development permit whenever they set up.

A Morinville business licence is needed, and there is a requirement for temporary road closure permit if a road right of way is being used. There is no provision for operation on private property or road right of way in residential areas.

Passage of the mobile vendor bylaw, along with an amendment to the land use bylaw, would remove the requirement for a development permit and allow vendors to operate in residential areas with landowner permission or a temporary road closure permit.

Food trucks will specifically be allowed in three pre-approved public locations: the skate park, the baseball diamond, and the splash park and outdoor rink area.

They can set up on private property if they have written authorization from the property owner, authorization that must be produced upon demand of a peace officer or development officer.

All mobile vendors must have a Morinville business licence and fill in a one-page  form on an online check-in portal.

Anyone who wants to park along the street will need to obtain a temporary road closure permit, which can be approved in “as little as 72 hours.”

Councillor Scott Richardson questioned the need for the procedure and the time involved in it, stating his research showed other municipalities used a much simpler process. In the case of Hinton that was giving potential vendors a checklist of requirements.

“I worry that it’s too restrictive,” he said. “I find this is going to be too cumbersome for people coming into town.”

Food trucks would not be able to operate in the road right-of-ways along 100 Street and 100 Avenue.

An exception would be if they are operating as part of a special event that has obtained a temporary road closure.

The proposed bylaw stipulates that if operating on town-owned land mobile vendors are required to hold $2,000,000 in liability insurance and to show proof of that upon request.

Following the acceptance of first reading, Councillor Stephen Dafoe proposed an amendment to the bylaw to permit mobile vendors to set up along 100 Street. The amendment was defeated.

The bylaw, as recommended by Admin, then passed first reading with a 4-3 split, with Councillors Balanko, Dafoe and Richardson opposed.

A motion by Councillor Ray White at second reading directing administration to amend the bylaw to include a review date of March 2025 then passed, followed by approval of second reading.

A public hearing will be held prior to third reading.

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