Hermiston is set to welcome new food trucks to town after the city council unanimously amended the mobile food vending ordinance Monday.
Among the amendments is an increase from three food truck licenses to six. Those six licenses will be in addition to any mobile vendors who set up shop in the food “pod” the city is looking to create. The updated ordinance also adds four temporary licenses that vendors can operate under for up to 90 days.
City planner Clint Spencer said he believed all of those options combined were “well within what the market can support for a while.”
“You can always make a change,” he said.
The city had begun looking at amendments to its original ordinance, passed in 2013, after hearing from potential entrepreneurs, including the owner of Southern Twain BBQ in Pendleton, who complained that they wanted to open a food truck in town but could not because all three licenses were already taken. Spencer said his department had also fielded numerous requests for temporary licenses to sell things such as ice cream, fruit cups or hot dogs in the summer. In an online survey that more than 900 people participated in, 86 percent said they believed the city should add more mobile food vending opportunities.
The new ordinance also loosens up some restrictions, including reducing the number of parking spots required from five to three, allowing push-carts and allowing operation in the C1 and C2 commercial zones, which included downtown. The ordinance does not create a food pod by statute, but the city is looking into creating a gathering space for food trucks in the public parking lot on Orchard Avenue across from the post office.
On Monday the council also discussed the results of a community survey regarding metal shipping containers used as storage units. The city does not currently regulate them, but the council asked that city staff look into possible regulations as the containers — usually seen on trains or ships — become more popular as an inexpensive storage option.
Spencer said 376 people filled out the optional online survey that was open to anyone. Sixty-nine percent of those respondents said they were opposed to all use of the containers in a residential zone, 51 percent said they were opposed to use in a commercial zone and 35 percent said they were opposed to use in an industrial zone.
Recommendations from the planning commission, however, suggested that the containers be allowed in residential zones under a few circumstances — requiring the containers to be 20 feet long or less, placed behind the front line of the residence, on a concrete slab, screened from view and free of rust or logos. One container per acre would also be allowed in commercial zones and industrial use of the containers would be allowed. Shipping containers would require a license, with 90-day and longterm licenses available. Existing containers would be grandfathered in.
Councilors had mixed reactions — Doug Primmer said it seemed like it would be too much work added on the code enforcement office, while John Kirwan said the city needed to write something it could enforce, just like regular storage sheds are currently subject to some rules. Lori Davis said she was OK with shipping containers in residential zones as long as they followed the rules suggested.
Spencer said he would keep the feedback in mind as he returned to the planning commission to start the process of creating the actual ordinance to bring back before the city council at a later date.
On Monday, the council approved a request from city staff to “flip-flop” two items on its streets capital improvement plan.
The plan was for the city to take on no major projects from the plan in fiscal year 2019-20, then complete a realignment of the three-way intersection of Geer, Harper and Umatilla River roads in 2021 and pave the eastern portion of Theater Lane after.
Assistant city manager Mark Morgan said the city has since changed its philosophy on paying for sidewalks on new projects and decided to only pave travel lanes on Theater Lane and leave addition of sidewalks, curbs and gutters to developers who build out there. That cut down the project’s cost from approximately $1.3 million to about $600,000. At the same time, engineers are having a harder time than expected coming up with a re-design for the Geer/Harper intersection, where three roads cross over the railroad tracks west of Home Depot.
“One of the things we have realized when we got into looking at Geer and Harper is that there are no good solutions there,” Morgan said.
Flipping the Theater and Geer/Harper projects would be easier from a cash flow perspective, give engineers more time and have East Theater Lane finished by the end of 2020.
Kirwan said he was opposed to the idea because the portion of Theater Lane that would be paved is beyond where the housing development lies.
“No citizens of the city of Hermiston live past there,” he said.
But councilor Jackie Myers, who lives in the area of the project, said residents still use the road frequently to get to other places. She has asked for years when the city will pave the road. And councilor Doug Smith said his family would use Theater Lane more often if the unpaved portion got paved.
In the end, all councilors but Kirwan voted in favor of the change.