Portland may relax food-truck rules, restrictions

April Garcia readies the El Corazon food truck for lunch in Portland Wednesday. The saying written above is a translation of a popular Basque saying.
April Garcia readies the El Corazon food truck for lunch in Portland Wednesday. The saying written above is a translation of a popular Basque saying. Buy Photo
Posted Aug. 06, 2013, at 6:59 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Food truck operators could find it easier to do business in the city, based on feedback City Manager Mark Rees has requested from them.

The City Council last year approved an ordinance that established operating areas, fees and other regulations for mobile food vendors.

The ordinance restricts the trucks to some city parks, a handful of streets around the edges of downtown, and industrial off-peninsula locations during the day. The rules also ban food trucks from operating within 65 feet of each other – or any commercial kitchen – on the peninsula. Off the peninsula, that boundary grows to 200 feet.

Some mobile vendors have complained that the restriction prevents them from doing business in “clusters,” which would attract greater foot traffic.

Food truck operators also have been unhappy with the city’s fees: $105 in building and occupancy fees for trucks on private property, $200 for a night-time operation license, and $500 for a standard license.

Now Rees has written to vendors and others in the food-truck industry, asking for their feedback on the rules.

“When the ordinance was adopted, it was understood that the city would revisit it later and see if changes were necessary,” Jennifer Thompson, Portland’s associate corporate counsel, said. “Over the last year, staff have been getting feedback and found some wrinkles that need to be worked out.”

She said that since Rees’ letter was sent in mid-July, the city has received several responses citing the “clustering” ban and fees. Based on the feedback, staff may tweak the existing ordinance, and submit it to the City Council’s Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee for consideration.

The committee would then make a recommendation on the revised rules to the council, which could take action on them in the fall.

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