NEW PALESTINE — Details of the town’s food truck ordinance have created a minor sticking point with members of the New Palestine Town Council. A review and amendment of the current food truck ordinance has been discussed during several of the past council meetings, including the most recent.
During a final reading of the food truck ordinance on Nov. 1, the council couldn’t resolve an issue to pass it and move forward. When the ordinance was brought up for a vote, council member Bill Niemier said he would be voting against the measure, which calls for time limits on locations for food trucks.
“I understand the purpose of a food truck ordinance regulating food trucks because you don’t want them on every corner in town replacing brick and mortar,” Niemier said. “But, I struggle with trying to find a way for the one and only food truck to be able to remain.”
Niemier noted he didn’t see anything in the newly proposed ordinance allowing for an exception for a current tenant or the owner of real estate who has allowed the lone food truck in town to be able to stay beyond the time set in the proposed ordinance — 48 consecutive hours.
The issue was bantered about between president Clint Bledsoe, vice president Brandee Bastin, council member Angie Fahrnow and council secretary Niemier. They ended their conversation with a vote that produced a 2-2 tie, sending the measure forward to yet another meeting.
Bastin noted the council had discussed Niemier’s concerns a few weeks back, but no exemption or amendment was added and she felt he knew that. The updated ordinance would hold firm, meaning no food truck could stay in the same place more than 48 hours in a seven-day period. That would hold firm regardless of a private landowner giving approval for a food truck to stay longer.
Bledsoe stated there was no reason for the council to make a provision on a private deal between a landowner and food truck operator, noting their concern was simply the town’s ordinance and making sure people followed it.
“I don’t understand this,” Bledsoe said. “Why would we be involved in a private contract between two other people when this is a food truck ordinance?”
Bastin reminded the council she asked the town’s lawyer and other council members about the wording on this issue several weeks ago and was told any deal between a landowner and a food truck operator has “no bearing” on the town’s food truck ordinance.
“So now we’re talking about an exception to it,” Bastin said. “Do any other town’s have any exceptions or stipulations written into their contracts?”
Bastin looked into the issue to see how other towns handle this type of thing and found there were “no special exceptions.” The town’s lawyer agreed with Bastin, saying town’s don’t make special exceptions.
“I’m just saying it’s our ordinance, and we can make it say whatever we want,” Niemier said.
Both Bastin and Bledsoe voted in favor of passing the final reading of the ordinance while Niemier and Fahrnow voted against it.
That sent the vote to the town’s clerk treasurer to break the tie. However, Yvonne Jonas opted to stay out of the issue and not cast the deciding vote. That sent the issue back to the council for a future vote.
“I don’t think I’m prepared to vote,” Jonas said. “I’ve not thought hard about this.”
Council member Chris Lytle was absent from the meeting. It appears the only way the issue will move forward is if they alter the ordinance or Lytle shows up for the next vote. With only a few sessions left before the end of the year, if not resolved the measure could be an issue for the new council in 2024.
In the meantime, the current food truck ordinance remains in place. In April 2021, the council first started making changes to the details of the food truck ordinance which was created in 2016. That’s when they lowered the cost of a permit from $200 to $60.
This time around, the council brought up the food truck ordinance for review and an amendment after a resident brought up an issue questioning how the resolution was identified during the Sept. 20 meeting. The ordinance has been discussed in some capacity ever since.
Bledsoe noted during their Oct. 4 meeting their food trucks ordinance says food trucks can’t operate more than a period of 48 hours in one week at one location. Bledsoe wants the ordinance to say 48 “consecutive” hours in a week added to be more clear.
According to the ordinance, the town’s manager is allowed to give special exceptions for food trucks to stay longer than 48 hours for special events such as festivals. The New Palestine Town Council meets again 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15 where it is expected to try and tackle the food truck issue again.