Sunday, September 15, 2013

Food Truck Update

I had a question from a constituent about the city's decision, now deferred, to arrange a food truck for the community center parking lot, near the library. In response, I provided a bit of history. Here it is --

The city started the food truck program Takoma Junction as a pilot. We funded the Old Takoma Business Association to run it. OTBA has done a great job, and the pilot was very successful. You can see OTBA's January 11, 2013 report to the council. The TPSS Co-op even reported higher Friday-evening sales, in the weeks after the program started, given patronage drawn by the nearby food trucks.

As an aside: It's typical that discussion and corrections are needed to get new programs right. It was the Takoma Junction Task Force (which I co-chaired), after conducting surveys and community meetings on ways to activate Takoma Junction as a community and business space, that recommended TJ food trucks. The 2009-11 council rejected the idea but then the current council moved ahead, although we did override staff's recommendation to locate the trucks at BY Morrison Park, near the entrance to Manor Circle, specifically because we were concerned about impact on neighboring residences and also low visibility.

The council discussed the pilot at its February 4, 2013 meeting, which included a staff presentation on the changes to city code that were eventually made. City Manager Brian Kenner recently explained, "The objectives of the food truck program are to support economic activity in Takoma Park and to enhance the vitality of the community." These are the objectives that the council and staff aimed to capture in city policy.

Updates to city code were made via 2 council votes, on June 3 and June 17. These changes have been welcomed by businesses such as Capital City Cheesecake, which has arranged for an on-site food-truck Thursday evenings in September, although they did have to cancel the initial, September 12 visit because of a weather-related issue.

After discussions with residents, the city manager notified us that the City will not move forward with the library-lot location for food truck vendors at this time. Brian says he wants to see how the vending site on the Maple Ave side of the community center works as well as some of the other locations first in order to gauge interest, traffic, etc. He may eventually come back to the library lot as a potential site, but that would be later.

I hope this background helps.

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