GREAT BARRINGTON -- Despite objection from restaurant owners, the Board of Selectmen will continue to solicit public feedback on whether to allow food trucks in town.
The Department of Health last week presented the Selectmen with a draft food vehicle bylaw that would designate areas around Town Hall and the Ramsdell Library as "mobile food vehicle" areas. Each location could have two food trucks each day.
While discussion has carried on for months, Selectmen have yet to say whether the bylaw will be voted on at annual town meeting. Selectmen also said they might withhold implementing the bylaw until after the summer of 2015 following the completion of a $5 million Main Street renovation project.
"It’s a real question of whether it’s the right thing to put in the mix when it’s summer," Selectwoman Deborah Phillips said.
The draft bylaw would allow food trucks to park at Town Hall and the Ramsdell Library between Pleasant Street and Dresser Avenue on the northbound side of the street. Both locations are more than 50 feet away from any existing restaurant. Food trucks would only be able to operate between the months of April through October and at town-sanctioned special events.
The bylaw requires food trucks to pay a $250 application fee and $500 for an annual permit no earlier than Feb. 1. The permit would expire at the end of the calendar year.
A vendor review committee would need to approve applications. The committee would include representatives from the departments of Public Works, Planning, Police, Building, Health and Fire.
Food trucks would need to have their paperwork in order. The physical address of the base of operations would also be examined by the Department of Health.
A half dozen restaurants, including Baba Louie’s Pizza, The Great Barrington Bagel Co., the Gypsy Joynt Cafe and Subway, have publicly objected to allowing food trucks.
They said food trucks would have a competitive advantage over brick-and-mortar restaurants, which carry staff and larger expenses. They said the summer months bring profits that allow for their continued existence during slower months.
Paul Masiero, owner of Baba Louie’s Pizza on Main Street, said "we struggle from October through April" with 20 employees.
"They come in during our best two months, dive in, and then leave," he said.
Selectwoman Deborah Philips said the town might want to wait until after the completion of the Main Street renovation project before implementing the bylaw.
Selectmen said they want to hear from members of the public after hearing predominately from restaurant owners.
Selectman Andrew Blechman was one of the most vocal in support of examining the possibility.
"It could even draw more people to downtown," Blechman said. "I don’t think we should be afraid, but I think we should move cautiously."
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