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Fee stays same, tweaks made to proposed food truck law

HOGTRUCK
Customers visit The Whole Hog food truck last summer in downtown Buffalo. (Charles Lewis/Buffalo News)

A revised set of proposed rules for food trucks in the City of Buffalo has been unveiled with no change to the proposed $1,000 annual license fee.

Council President Richard A. Fontana, Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera and South Council Member Michael P. Kearns each said this week they'd like to see a lower proposed fee.

However, North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr., the bill sponsor, said even though those three lawmakers have talked to him about it, he believes the proposal of $1,000 is fair.

"If you can afford $80,000 for a truck, I don't think a $1,000 fee is too excessive," Golombek said today.

Rivera said he initially took the position of having a lower fee because he wanted the city's fee to be more in line with the fees in other cities roughly the size of Buffalo, but there have been compromises as the law has developed and he will not push for a lower fee.

"If food trucks are willing to live with it, that's fine," Rivera said today.

When asked today whether the group was willing to accept the size of the fee, Mitchell M. Stenger, attorney for the Western New York Food Truck Association, said he was in the midst of canvassing his members.

As The Buffalo News reported last week, changes were already planned to the draft regulations. The amendments that have been proposed -- all of which were suggested by a group of food truck owners -- are:

--Distance: Food trucks must stay at least 100 feet from "the nearest edge of any building or section of a building comprising a licensed food establishment, excluding any patio, awning or temporary enclosure attached thereto..." where there is an open kitchen.

The previous version of the proposed rules called for a 100-foot buffer between a food truck and the property line of a restaurant with an open kitchen.

--Garbage cans: Removing a requirement for two, 65-gallon garbage cans and replacing it with the mandate that food trucks "must be equipped with trash receptacles of a sufficient capacity that shall be changed as necessary to prevent overflow or the creation of litter or debris."

--Hearing: Any food truck cited for its third violation would still be subject to an order to close immediately. However, the newest version of the proposed rules would allow the food truck to remain in operation until a hearing is held and a determination is made by the city.

Police or the Department of Permits and Inspections would still be able to force a a food truck to stop operating at a location if a blatant violation if found and its the third offense, but it wouldn't be an indefinite closure subject to a hearing, Golombek said.

Under the law, a hearing would be required within 60 days.

Golombek said he would have preferred a smaller time frame for the hearing, but he has been told by City License Director Patrick Sole Jr. that a hearing could not be guaranteed within the a shorter window if less than 60 days was required.

The previous version of the rules did not allow the food truck to remain in operation once it was shut down and a hearing was needed.

Golombek said that while the existing food truck operators generally have been "pretty good" at following the rules, he wants rules in place in case the next round of operators aren't as complaint.

"I'm concerned about he next level of food trucks," Golombek said. "...I want to make sure that they're as good as these guys are now."

Read the new rules here. And here are some video clips of the debate on food trucks in Common Council Chambers last week.

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN

Video: Food truck debate in City Hall

Update: 12:44 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 5

Here's some audio from Roaming Buffalo's Chris Taylor:

4:50 p.m. Jan 4: As a vote nears on proposed food truck regulations, here's a glimpse of what people were saying inside Common Council chambers in City Hall today:

Mitchell M. Stenger, attorney for Western New York Food Truck Association

Michael H. Kooshoian, attorney for Entrepreneurs for a Better Buffalo

Ronald A. Lucchino, president of Elmwood Taco & Subs

North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr.

John Fusco, owner of Zetti's Pizza & Pasta

Stay tuned. I'll be adding more video clips. That's all the clips for now. Enjoy.

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN

Smith, Russell in line for Council leadership positions

Update 4:33 p.m.: Kearns did not keep Finance Committee chairmanship -- that went to Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto.

Here's my story.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Masten Council Member Demone A. Smith said he expects to be named the Common Council majority leader when city lawmakers reorganize this afternoon.

Smith also said University Council Member Bonnie E. Russell will become the new president pro temp of the Council -- which will come with additional duties but no $2,500 stipend -- when the Council holds its reorganizational meeting at 2 p.m. in Council Chambers.

As we already knew, current Majority Leader Richard A. Fontana will take over as Council president, with Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk set to lose the post he's held for eight years.

Also according to Smith, who was packing up his Council office today getting ready for a move to the majority leader's office:

--South Council Member Michael P. Kearns will stay chairman of the Finance Committee.

--Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen will become the new Legislation Committee chairman, with the previous chairman, North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr., taking over the Community Development Committee from Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto.

--Russell will keep the chairmanship of the Civil Service Committee, and Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera will stay chairman of the Claims Committee.

A majority vote of the Council is required for leadership and chairmanship posts.

Fontana, Smith, Russell, Pridgen and Golombek are part of the new Council majority, as Fontana had been aligned with Franczyk, Kearns, LoCurto and Rivera.

Leadership positions, except for president pro temp, and chairmanships come with stipends: $10,000 for president; $5,000 for majority leader, and $1,000 each for the committee chairmen.

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN

 

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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.

rmccarthy@buffnews.com


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.

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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 | jterreri@buffnews.com


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 | jzremski@buffnews.com

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