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Oshawa opening the door for food trucks

New rules for food trucks in the City of Oshawa will make it a lot easier for operators to work in the city and obtain licenses.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

A new set of rules are set to cut the ties that bind many food trucks from operating within the City of Oshawa, opening the doors to allow the mobile food vendors to operate on a set of downtown streets as well as improving the permitting process to make it easier for food trucks to take part in special events.

The changes follow a request from Oshawa’s Downtown BIA in 2015, and in what city staff are labelling as an “accelerated review”, a revised bylaw and policy has come forward to allow the trendy new phenomenon to begin operating in the city.

Until recently, the city’s policies were incredibly strict when it came to the operation of food trucks, limiting them to operating for no more than 10 minutes at a time in one given area, and not on any city or regional highways.

“They are rather restrictive,” says Ken Mann, the city’s manager of policy and research, noting that when the bylaw was created, it more or less centred around ice cream trucks and hot dog carts.

Now however, following a “street food vending revolution,” that provision appears to have been struck down and the rules around operations loosened.

“The game has really changed,” Mann says.

In particular, proposed new regulations will allow for food trucks to vend on city roadways for a period not exceeding five hours in a 24-hour period and will allow them to operate on certain properties if permission has been granted. The rules and licensing process have also been simplified and the fees associated with the licensing process have been updated.

With that said, the food trucks will still be restricted from operating in most parts of the Downtown BIA save for Bagot Street, Metcalfe Street, and Richmond Street East.

Moving forward, food trucks will see a $75 application fee along with a $225 licensing fee.

The changes come following a busy period of consultation by city staff, who took to the residents, industry stakeholders and restaurant owners in the city to gather their feedback on new regulations. The message they received was clear. A large majority of those surveyed want to see more food trucks in the city’s downtown, parks and at special events, and 92 per cent of respondents noted that food trucks have the ability to increase the vibrancy of the city.

From within the food truck industry, 86 per cent of those asked wanted to see changes to the city’s existing rules.

The new rules received general support from council members on the Corporate Services Committee with only minor concerns being brought forward around certain restrictions remaining in place.

Once such rule will prohibit food trucks from operating in city parking lots, something councillors questioned when it came to places like Lakeview Park, where a food truck may want to visit during baseball season. Staff noted that those restrictions could be addressed moving forward once the new rules begin to be rolled out, something they say will take one month following council approval.

“I think there is a desire to look at opportunities,” says Jerry Conlin, the city’s director of municipal law enforcement and licensing services. “We wanted to manage this on a case by case and park by park (basis).”

Councillors also questioned a restriction that prohibits food trucks from operating within 30 metres of other restaurants.

“I think it was a number that was set out sort of arbitrarily,” said Councillor Amy McQuaid-England.

An amendment to loosen the rule to 20 metres brought forward by the councillor carried with Councillor Gail Bates and Doug Sanders in support while Mayor John Henry and Councillor Rick Kerr were opposed.

The final vote will go before all of council on April 30.