By CRAIG GARRETT
A sort of food fight over food trucks broke out at Tuesday’s city council hearing.
The city is trying to regulate food-truck operators, where they park their vehicles, how long they stay there and other health and safety rules to protect consumers. Arcadia had watched Florida’s rocketing food-truck industry from the sidelines and wanted to keep ahead of the curve, the city’s lawyer T.J. Wohl said Tuesday before council members took the matter of new regulations under consideration. North Port has just adopted similar rules. Arcadian planning commissioners had earlier favored new rules and Tuesday’s hearing was a first reading, meaning changes may occur before final wording is adopted.
But downtown restaurant owners weren’t hungering for competition, at the meeting complaining that food-truck vendors worked under much looser rules, robbed them of revenue and on wheels could vanish should business dry up. Two of them urged the city to prohibit food trucks, or to at least limit access to Arcadia.
“It’s just so hard being in business (downtown),” said Holly Incitti, the owner of Oak Street Deli. “Every dollar (to food-truck vendors) is a dollar out of our pocket.”
Regulating food trucks in Arcadia had been percolating. Unlicensed operators are part of the culture, however, especially in the town’s Hispanic community. Then Michele Holton came to town. Her Pattie King food truck attracted Carl McQuay, the city’s ordinance compliance officer. Holton alleged that he bore down with a degree of intensity she had not experienced in vending throughout Florida. She complained to city council, which prompted food-truck regulations that had not existed.
Holton on Tuesday was generally pleased, only questioning new rules limiting how long vendors may remain in a location.
“Someone has a propane tank bungeed on their (food) truck, that’s crazy,” she said, applauding the city for chasing after unlicensed operators.
Still, Michelle LaCroix-Miller wasn’t having it, arguing that mobile vendors have advantages over such diners as her Myshelly’s Kitchen on Oak Street and should be herded to special districts.
To which Mayor Jaccarie Simons countered: “Please keep in mind that you’ve been kept in mind.”
A second and final reading of the draft ordinance likely happens this month.