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In City Hall, expect a food fight

By Jill Terreri

North Council Member Joseph Golombek wanted to renew the city's ordinance governing the growing food truck industry with little changes to the law that sunsets April 1. The debate 18 months ago about where and when the trucks could operate, and how much they should pay the city for the privilege, was so contentious, and the law that was enacted in January 2012 seemed to be working so well, that Golombek proposed a law that would reduce the permit fee for trucks that had obtained a permit last year, but makes little other changes. 

Golombek isn't going to get his wish. 

"This whole thing is going to be opened up," Majority Leader Demone Smith observed during a pre-meeting caucus on Monday. 

A coalition of food truck owners doesn't like Golombek's legislation, saying the city should lower the initial permit fee of $1,000, and make the renewal fee less than Golombek's proposal of $500, and is lobbying other members of the Council to see if they can get a proposal that suits them better. 

Meanwhile, a lawyer for a group of businesses on Main Street in University Heights is speaking to the Council's Legislation Committee a week from today about their concerns about food trucks.  

Tucker Curtain, owner of the Steer and Lake Effect Diner and a leader of the business group, said he would like the trucks to be prohibited from operating within 200 feet of an open restaurant kitchen, instead of the law's current 100-foot restriction.

"Let us run our businesses and grow our businesses," Curtain said.

But a 200-foot restriction is onerous, food truck owners say, and they have hinted that such a restriction could trigger a lawsuit from the group. 

Food truck lawyer Mitchell Stenger and Lloyd Taco Truck owners Peter Cimino and Chris Dorsaneo attended Monday's caucus and said they would like the ordinance to be renewed before it sunsets April 1. Stenger said other suburban communities who are considering how to regulate the trucks are looking to see what Buffalo does. 

The Council meets today, and will send Golombek's legislation -- which none of the interested parties seems to like -- to the Legislation Committee for further discussion.

If the Council is going to approve legislation before the sunset on April 1, it will have to call a special meeting.

Mayor Byron Brown will also have the opportunity to weigh in with a veto if he objects to whatever the Council passes.  

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |