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City code omits food trucks
by MATTHEW NASHSequim Gazette
Mobile food trucks could be in danger of closing up shop or never even opening within the city limits.
Chris Hugo, the city’s director of community development, said the city’s current municipal code doesn’t list anything for mobile food trucks so legally they aren’t allowed.
One business at stake is Fita’s Mexican Grill, 190 Priest Road, owned by Arturo Moreno, who bought it almost two years ago from his brother.
“Here we’ve had a food truck in place for two years listed as a permanent use, but it’s mobile,” Hugo said.
Hugo said Fita’s doesn’t pay general facility charges, impact fees and other related costs of new brick-and-mortar restaurants but does hold a business license and pays sales tax to the city.
“It’s strictly that the code doesn’t allow for it,” Hugo said.
Moreno said he learned of the conflict a few weeks ago after another issue arose.
He first put up a 3-foot by 5-foot Fita’s business sign and was told by city staff he needed a permit.
Moreno said his later conversation with staff didn’t involve the sign but how his business permit wasn’t going to be renewed.
“It felt like it was something they figured was good to do,” he said.
Hugo said the city council must make the decision to allow for food trucks in the code. Moreno’s options are to approach the city council, build a brick-and-mortar restaurant or move the business elsewhere. If the council were to approve it, Hugo said he’d work on specifics for food trucks like those for other restaurants, such as signage amounts and setbacks from roads.
Moreno said he plans to speak with city councilors.
The topic is being scheduled for councilors some time in May.
Hugo said he first recognized the problem a year ago and soon after began looking into it but he couldn’t find a permit. He discovered that Fita’s business license application had a note for a one-month trial in May 2010. The note said if there were no complaints the business could continue.
Hugo said a recent application for a food truck in downtown Sequim was denied and last summer the city saw two mobile ice cream trucks in Carrie Blake Park briefly but the park’s policy doesn’t allow those businesses.
Hugo said if Moreno were to apply today for a business license, he couldn’t approve it; however, the business is allowed to continue to operate until councilors make a decision.
Moreno said the wagon has a big following. He also owns Fita’s Mexican Grill in Port Angeles, a storefront restaurant.
“We do a completely different kind of food and service than any other restaurant here,” he said. “The wagon has become an attraction to customers.”
Moreno said he’s confused by the sudden decision on his business.
“These same warnings were available two years ago,” he said.
Hugo said it was a matter of setting the highest priorities each day and that he had multiple other projects he is leading such as the comprehensive plan update.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.