After more than a decade in Sequim Municipal Code with strict guidelines, City of Sequim leaders look to loosen rules for mobile food vendors.
Following the prompt of city councilor Vicki Lowe and a straw vote by fellow councilors in January, they directed the city’s Planning Commission in recent months to review city code for Mobile Food Service Vendors (chapter 18.65).
“I think it makes it difficult for food trucks to be a business in Sequim,” Lowe said at the Jan. 23 council meeting.
“A lot of things have changed since 2012 (when the code was approved).”
The planning commission held multiple meetings in February and March about the potential code change, including a March 21 meeting with most of the 19 speakers in favor of a change, including Caleb Messinger, co-owner of Southern Nibble, who operates under the current guidelines in the city.
The biggest obstacle, proponents of code change say, is food truck vendors not being allowed in the city’s downtown core. That means vendors must operate in nonresidential zones west of Fifth Avenue and east of Brown Road.
Additionally, vendors who use a site for more than four hours must leave their sites at the end of each day and not return within 48 hours.
In 2012, some city councilors and business owners said mobile food vendors would impact brick and mortar restaurants.
The planning commission’s updated recommendation to the city council omits the location and duration guidelines, but vendors would need to operate within nonresidential zones, and leave premises at the end of each day of operation.
According to city staff, mobile food vendors could be allowed on public or private property with a city approval, and a separate permit is not required for a vendor operating under a city-approved special event permit (8.38)
Councilors unanimously voted on May 8 to hold a public hearing for potential code changes for mobile food vendors no later than their June 12 meeting.
Updated May 17: The hearing was set for the June 12 meeting, city staff report.
On May 8, city attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross said a public hearing may be required by the Department of Commerce because of potential land use regulation changes.
Councilor Rachel Anderson and Kathy Downer requested a public hearing regardless, with Downer saying she’s “gotten some passionate emails about it.”
Councillor William Armacost, a self-described “foodie,” said he’s excited about potential change as it’s “small business owners trying to pursue the American dream.”
He said, “I don’t think the individual proprietor is going to hurt; it creates a frenzy of more food.”
Mayor Tom Ferrell agreed with moving ahead with changes “in the spirit of competition.”
For more information on the potential code change, visit sequimwa.gov.