February 21, 2024

Council reviews food truck findings

Southwest Iowa Hot Air Balloon Fest attendees line up for food at the airport. Creston city council discussed their findings regarding food trucks as the look to put together a new ordinance.

Creston City Council reviewed their findings Tuesday from a survey and three meetings regarding food trucks in the community, though they took no action. The council is gathering information in order to create a new ordinance focused on food trucks.

Councilmember Kiki Scarberry shared the results of a community survey, which aimed to understand the public opinion about allowing food trucks in Creston parks.

“We had a total of 1,720 responses from both residents and nonresidents of Creston. Seventy-five point seven percent were residents that live in the city of Creston,” Scarberry said. “Ninty-seven point seven percent of those individuals that filled out the survey said that food trucks should be allowed in the city parks in their opinion.”

Comments were allowed in the survey. With 608 written responses, about 66% were positive, the rest being equal between negative and neutral. Negative comments focused on support of area brick and mortar restaurants, while positive comments focused on supporting small business and bringing more options to Creston.

The food truck committee, which consists of Mayor Gabe Carroll and Councilmembers Matt Levine and Brenda Lyell-Keate, held three meetings, one each for food truck owners, the Creston Parks and Recreation Board and restaurant owners.

Levine explained the basis of what each group wanted.

“What we found is the restaurant owners want a setback of some kind, the food truck owners just want simplicity and a way for them to be in town, something easier than we have right now. And obviously the park board doesn’t want them,” Levine said.

Fees

Part of the discussion focused on fees for food trucks. Levine believed fees should be lowered to $25 a day and $250 a year, Carroll agreeing.

“It did sound like, at least with Reno and Woody’s, $25 a day, $100 a month and $250 a year is pretty typical for surrounding towns and the fees they have,” Carroll said. “I don’t think most of our local trucks would have much of an issue with that.”

When talking about fee exemptions for local food trucks, the council was split. Carroll explained that, according to Creston City Attorney Marc Elcock, the city could have a dual fee schedule.

“Mr. Clayton said that having that exemption for that first year was really helpful for starter food trucks locally to get going without having a high upfront cost, so I think that’s something that could be considered,” Carroll said. “[Elcock] said it’s OK, recognizing the benefits that the local food trucks bring to the community as opposed to the chain food trucks.”

He suggested $250 a year for locals and $500 a year for non-local food trucks. Blazek agreed, saying it would encourage local residents to build businesses in Creston. Levine and Councilmember Steve Wintermute thought a two-tier fee system would make it too complex.

“Personally, I’m in favor of keeping everything the same. One single price for everyone, make everything the same,” Levine said. “I feel like it’s cherry picking at that point.”

The council also discussed the park and recreation board’s request to get a $100 deposit from food trucks when in the parks.

“The park board did mention they would like a $100 deposit from food trucks in case there’s a mess left and they have to clean up,” Carroll said.

Wintermute, Scarberry and Levine quickly nixed the idea.

“I feel like we shouldn’t charge it, and if they make a mess, we just don’t let them back. It will work itself out that way,” Levine said. “I don’t think it’s going to be difficult to figure that out. Charging a fee every single time that they might get refunded? I don’t care for that at all.”

Wintermute said if trash is left, it would just have to be picked up.

“That’s just one of their jobs,” Wintermute said. “They’re going to have to pick up after people.”

Scarberry agreed.

“I think if you do that, you’ll have to charge every vendor at the farmers market the same thing,” she said. “The more people are in the parks, the more trash we’re going to have.”

Location

The council also discussed where food trucks would be able to set up.

“Personally, I am in favor of the setbacks, like 150 feet, that’s half a block, that keeps them off the front door but doesn’t limit them that much,” Levine said.

He also thought food trucks should be able to be in the parks.

“I think we should have them in there. It seems like it’s our say, like it should be,” Levine said. “I think if they bring all their items in and they pass the checklist, there should be no reason that they shouldn’t be there.”

Wintermute had the same sentiment.

“The people that I’ve heard from, which is not that many, think they should have a designated spot where they can set up just about any time,” Wintermute said. “It’s the people’s park, that’s something that the people seem to want.”

Carroll mentioned talking with Elcock about the topic.

“There was some question about whether the park and rec board gets to decide all their policies or what goes to the park,” Carroll said. “He said the park is an advisory board to the council, so that does have certain powers but there’s nothing to suggest the park has exclusive authority over the parks and playground areas. It is up to the council.”

However, he cautioned the council to work closely with the park and recreation department.

The council also discussed having designated areas or a district for food trucks, but were unable to decide on a location.

Erin Henze

Originally from Wisconsin, Erin is a recent graduate from UW-Stevens Point. Outside of writing, she loves to read and travel.