Food trucks are now permitted on public property in Akron.
Akron City Council approved legislation Monday that allows food trucks, but makes operators pay a hefty fee to operate on public property downtown. Food truck operators must pay a $225 annual application fee and another $1,750 annually to set up on two streets in the city’s biomedical corridor. Some council members and community leaders thought the higher fee was warranted to protect the brick and mortar restaurants, especially in downtown.
“I am proud of the investment we have made in downtown,” said Councilman Jeff Fusco, who chaired a special committee that spent nearly a year studying the food truck issue. “It’s our responsibility to protect and not give away our downtown.”
The amount of the fee for operating in the biomedical corridor, which includes the three hospitals, downtown and the University of Akron, has been criticized by food truck operators and the Institute for Justice, an Arlington, Va., law firm that helped food truck owners form the Greater Akron Food Truck Coalition.
Steve Sabo, who owns Orange Truk and heads the coalition, said the coalition may challenge the ordinance because of not only the high downtown fee, but also other restrictions. The ordinance forbids trucks from being within 50 feet from a residence, 200 feet from a brick and mortar restaurant, 750 feet from a park and 1,000 feet from a school.
“I don’t see any recourse but to bring in legal counsel,” said Sabo, who lives in Norton and was among the local food truck owners who were pushing for Akron to allow the trucks greater access.
Akron has barred food trucks from operating on public property unless part of a city-sanctioned event. They are permitted on private property with proper zoning.
The higher fee applies to food truck owners who want an assigned parking spot on Locust Street, which is near Akron General Medical Center and Akron Children’s Hospital, or Park Street, which is north of UA near Grace Park. Food trucks will still be permitted at city-sponsored events.
Fusco said a vendor who wants to operate at Lock 3 during the summer must pay a $1,200 fee and the city charges $1,200 a year for a contractor to lease a public right of way. He said parking near the hospitals can run $10 a day, but the downtown food truck fee equates to about $4.80 a day. The legislation was amended to include a penalty section. A violation would be a third-degree misdemeanor with a $100 fine for a first offense, $200 fine for a second offense and $500 fine for subsequent offenses.
The legislation will become effective after it is signed by Mayor Don Plusquellic, who supports it. That means food trucks could begin operating on public property in Akron this summer.
Sabo, however, doesn’t predict many food truck owners will be interested because of all of the restrictions. He said the $225 fee is reasonable, but the distance requirements are overly restrictive.
“When you put that all in the equation, show me where I can park,” he said. “I expect no one to even do it.”
Fusco said other cities, including Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati, that have passed food truck legislation have revisited it and he is willing to after seeing how the new regulations work. He said the food truck committee also may reconvene to look at other issues, including food trucks on private property and food carts, such as hot dog vendors.
“This is a first step,” Fusco said.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/swarsmith. Read the Beacon Journal’s political blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/ohio-politics.