A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany council passes food truck law

Written May 26th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

The council (across the top) listens to Code Compliance Officer Kris Schendel on food truck regulations Wednesday.

Albany’s new food truck ordinance is intended to even the playing field for operators of these businesses and reduce their city fees, the city council was told Wednesday before unanimously passing it into law.

Councilor Bessie Johnson questioned a couple of the items I mentioned in a story yesterday: the prohibition of “additional lighting,” whatever that means, and limiting outdoor heaters to one.

Code Compliance Officer Kris Schendel says those limits are meant to apply only to food trucks permitted under this section of the city code. Operators that want outside lighting and more heaters can have them, he said, but they would have to apply to the planning department under land-use regulations.

As for ADA-compliant picnic tables, Schendel said ADA compliance is required by the state for any food business that provides seating.

The council was unbothered by parts of the text that seem unclear, at least to me. One section, for example, says that “each MFU shall be deemed in compliance with the Oregon Fire Code,” which says exactly the opposite of what is meant.

When the the subject of a new food truck ordinance came up in March, the council was told Albany has 18 food trucks.

Councilor Marilyn Smith said the new ordinance had the support of food truck operators and their state organization, a point she also made in comments on yesterday’s story on this site.

The council also  adopted a fee schedule intended to “defray cost associated with reasonable inspections, oversight, and enforcement actions associated with the operations of mobile food units (MFU) within the city limits of Albany.”

Owners who want a food truck on their property must apply for an “MFU authorization.” That will cost $100, and so will a modification of an application already approved.

The permit for an MFU will cost $200. This can be an annual permit, and renewing it will also cost $200. Applying for a modified permit will be $100.

The fees are less than what food truck operators now pay for city permits, according to Schendel, and below what many other cities charge.

City ordinances take effect 30 days after being signed by the mayor, which means this one should become law a month from now. (hh)

Food trucks on Pacific as seen on Tuesday evening.


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13 responses to “Albany council passes food truck law”

  1. Daniel Dietz says:

    How many of Albany’s 18 food truck operators favored the requirement to provide a scaled site plan and a circulation plan of vehicle and pedestrian traffic? I’m struggling with the idea that folks running these businesses favor the requirement to produce planning documents for the city. Did they express support for the provision that limits picnic tables to two? The parking requirement?

    Both Councilor Smith and Officer Schendel have represented that Albany’s food truck operators expressed support for the ordinance. It would be helpful to have more details. Which owners? How many? Did they have the chance to review and comment on the ordinance that was submitted to the council? They agreed completely with its provisions? I’m surprised that any business, especially one that’s so traditionally informal, would enthusiastically welcome new and substantive regulations.

    • Councilor Ray Kopczynski says:

      ANY member of the public has the opportunity to address the council on upcoming issues. They can contact their individual councilors and/or make formal comments during the work sessions prior to council meetings. You did so at yesterday’s council meeting. For whatever reason, it is not common for the public to do so…All of the proposals & information we get is publicly available the same time we get it.

      • Daniel Dietz says:

        Yes, and… we rely on the Council to voice the concerns of the public and to provide a layer of scrutiny over the city’s actions. To participate in this ordinance process, you had to be checking work session agendas to know it was discussed on Monday, log in for the work session or find it on YouTube, register to comment before noon on Wednesday, and then wait through 90 minutes of budget conversation. All of this takes foreknowledge, access to Wifi, and time, much of which conflicts with operating hours for food carts.

        Hopefully, since the ordinance gives the City discretion to suspend their permits without advance warning or appeal, Albany’s food cart owners all had the chance to weigh in– and the ordinance reflects their needs. If nothing else, they should be happy with the predetermination that they’re all in compliance with the Oregon Fire Code.

        • City Councilor Marilyn Smith says:

          City staff began working with food truck owners many months before bringing that work to the council at the March 8 work session. Letters and testimony from mobile food vendors are part of the record of that meeting. Concerns raised by councilors and vendors lead to modifications in the ordinance that was brought back on May 24 and adopted May 26. Please take some time to review the March 8 meeting to get more background on this topic.

          • Daniel Dietz says:

            Councilor Smith, I owe you an apology. I had not seen the March 8 meeting before you pointed it out, and I was ahead of my skis with my comments. I’m sorry for that. I acknowledge that the ordinance addressed many of the concerns of the cart operators.

            After listening carefully to comments by the six owners who addressed the Council in March, I’m still troubled by the ordinance, and now, the process. Of the six, exactly one expressed support for the ordinance. All six expressed concerns. While acknowledging, as above, some concerns were addressed, here are my notes on those that remain:

            DH: Awesome thing you guys are doing. On requiring permits for trucks to operate for more than two days in a month in one location: “this is going to create a lot more work both for us and for city staff, having to go through the planner review…”

            NA: “My concerns are these new rules and fees coming into effect. Concerned about how much of these might affect my ability to give back to the community.” “Everything is up to code for most of us. I understand that there might be a few trucks who aren’t doing things correctly but that should not affect those of us who are up to code.”

            BH: Concerned by permitting requirements for trucks that in different locations. Already inspected by County, which requires trucks to meet criteria for public health.

            NC: Themes that were concerning included rules about small sheds or warehouses for overflow. Has two small sheds. Also, lights and heaters, to have an area well lit (for employee safety). Due to Oregon weather, heaters are important for customers.

            LH: “Not the job of the city council to approve rules that inhibit or make business harder.” Specifically: lighting should not be prohibited. It’s safety for guests.

            JS: Closed in November because of restrictions. Getting calls asking why he can’t be in Albany. Disabled Vet. Can’t be in the city now until we figure this thing out. Concerned about fees because Stayon charges only $20. County fees for Linn are $590. Just wants to be back in Albany.

            Based on their statements to council at this meeting, it would not be accurate to say that the ordinance has the support of Albany’s food cart owners. Even as some some concerns were addressed, many were not. Each in their own way, the owners expressed concerns about the City regulating their livelihood.

            I’m still stuck with the same question: why? Why was this necessary? The original letter to council from the compliance officer describes “impacts to the visual landscape.” Are we really doing this to improve appearances on Pacific Blvd? The letter also mentions the staff time needed to regulate the trucks. It feels like we’re creating regulations so that can staff can be compensated for regulating something that, prior to the ordinance, didn’t demand regulation. The council punted on this issue in 2016 and to my knowledge, no one has been harmed by a food truck since. It would have made sense to punt again.

        • Councilor Ray Kopczynski says:

          All the information is available well in advance of the actual meeting times so there is ample time to be prepared for any given meeting. I encourage you (and others) to contact your city councilor via email (or phone) and pose questions of concern. The same can be done with city staff.

          If we have no information/contact from you (public) we are working primarily with staff to have our questions answered. Some of us ask questions of staff before the meetings, and some of us do not.

          Many of us also ask questions of friends, etc. to also get their opinions on matters of concern to us. Each councilor does it differently.

          • Daniel Dietz says:

            Even as I disagree with the Council’s decision on this issue, I want to acknowledge that the Council and staff are consistently welcoming and respectful in every interaction I’ve had. People work really hard and it’s clear how much everyone cares.

  2. CHEZZ says:

    Where is the light at the end of this dark tunnel of food trucks?

  3. Jack Johnny JJ Jimbo J. Hartman says:

    It sounds as though all the steam has been taken out of the author’s original anti-regulatory screed on this issue. When even Bessie Johnson votes in the affirmative, that is a clear sign – there is no there there concerning those who condemn regulations almost universally. (A single exception – where traffic laws and bicyclists intersect – those regulations favoring bicycles are Okay!)

    As much as the libertarians would love a world where anything goes, the conflict between greed and safety requires a substantial degree of regulation. If one must choose between private avarice and government ineptitude, give me ineptitude every time.

  4. James Engel says:

    Wow…just how did we in our “manifest destiny” mind set progress westward w/o all these municipal regulations?? As with any regulation there is a fee. So… is it regulation or fee raising??? Ya know ‘Ole King George tried this fee idea some 250 years ago & those with guns rebelled thus the present U.S. of A. Come on Washington…Tread on Me!!

  5. Albany YIMBY says:

    The concept of stationary food trucks is an oxymoron. Food trucks, in my opinion, should be forced to move every day and be in different locations, park in residential areas, commercial, or city properties, always with an operation permit by the city, and all the safety and health standards met.

    Why some people prefer to drive to a yucky parking lot instead of checking their favorite trucks schedules and locations to see where they are going to be next week?

    I said that before, no resident is going to die for allowing a food truck to park by their home for a day, and surely residents don’t own the public space (where they store their cars for free by the way)

  6. Bob Woods says:

    I’m all for food trucks….but….You can’t get a great bagel anywhere in Oregon.

    Best bagels west of NYC…. The Bagelry in Bellingham, WA. Truly exceptional.

  7. centrist says:

    I’m puzzling over what this is at foundation level.
    Are these rules intended to regulate trade? Seems like it.
    Are these rules intended to protect public health? Not so sure.
    Food carts are a new wrinkle in the restaurant market. Each successful vendor has a specialized menu. Assembling several carts in near proximity allows for many menu choices. Recognize the possibilities of this new wrinkle. Heck fire, plant a pod in the old Wells Fargo lot, and watch enthusiasm blossom.

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