by MATTHEW NASH
Most of the Sequim City Council agreed to let discussions begin between Chris Hugo, director of community development, and the planning commission about provisions for mobile and ancillary food vendors.
They want more information on whether or not action is necessary to create an ordinance to cover these vendors: Currently the Sequim Municipal Code doesn’t mention these vendors, thus not allowing them.
Discussions are going forward, but some councilors expressed concerns about allowing the vendors because mobile vendors do not pay city fees and might not meet the same standards as brick-and-mortar restaurants.
Mayor Pro-tem Ted Miller called himself neutral about the vendors, but said ancillary vendors pay general facility charges and the city should be proactive in promoting those and be more strict with mobile vendors.
“In the most extreme circumstances they should be approved,” he said.
Councilor Bill Huizinga wanted to know if there was a way to level the playing field between mobile/ancillary and brick-and-mortar restaurants.
Hugo said equity in the marketplace and what other owners are dealing with in the marketplace is something they can investigate.
Two businesses, Fita’s Mexican Grill, considered a mobile vendor, and Curbside Bistro, an ancillary vendor, could be affected by the final decision of the council.
Fita’s was approved for its business license on a one-month trial basis in May 2010 before the license was extended for a year.
Hugo said Fita’s operates like a brick-and-mortar restaurant despite being mobile.
Curbside Bistro operates from a non-permanent structure associated with The Home Depot’s approved site and building plans.
Hugo said Curbside never was approved in their books site-wise and just appeared.
He’s approached The Home Depot officials about finalizing plans to make the business extension legitimate.
“I have told them that they have to be made good,” he said. “I can’t keep closing my eyes.”
When asked why the businesses are allowed, Hugo said it’s best live with the conditions and get the code right until council makes its decision.
Huizinga and Erik Erichsen said they find the vendors tacky.
Laura Dubois said the vendors are part of a special culture in certain cities and can be well done, but she doesn’t want to see a proliferation of them allowed in the area. She suggested limiting the number of vendors per square mile.
Mayor Ken Hays is opposed to allowing them in the downtown core.
Hugo said he’s been approached by individuals interested in starting similar mobile businesses, for example, at the intersection of Third Avenue and Washington Street, but he’s denied them because of the lack of code.
Hays said if a vendor is mobile and plugged into a property owner’s sewer and water, then the property owner should pay the appropriate building fees.
In the next month, city staff will work with the planning commission and local restaurants about the ordinance before bringing it back to city councilors.
Hugo said they’ll consider a number of topics for a proposal such as fees, land use regulations, zone classifications, development standards, etc.
“We can come up with rules for what conditions they can be allowed in various zones,” Hugo said. “The bigger question is where are they allowed and what are the issues that go along with them?”