Casper City Council passed on first reading an ordinance for the permitting process for food trucks downtown after two hours of public comment, amendments, and a failed attempt to table the whole thing.

After the meeting, Mayor Ray Pacheco said the months of work by city staff to craft the ordinance, some of which was significantly amended, probably has seen its toughest work before approval of two more readings necessary for it to take effect.

"I don't think you're going to make everybody happy, obviously, but I hope that we're over the hump at this point," Pacheco said. "But I can say that there could be a possibility that we could see more amendments."

While food trucks have been at events at the Tate Pump House and during the Eclipse, the presence of food trucks at Frontier Brewing on East Second Street downtown beginning in October raised concerns, according to the meeting agenda for March 27.

Some restaurant -- "brick and mortar" -- owners said the trucks took up several parking spaces, which in turn discouraged potential customers, according to previous statements to the council.

According to a memo in the March 27 agenda, "Cities are having to ensure that food trucks are being managed appropriately both in terms of their compliance with public health regulations, and also in regards to their impacts on traffic and the local restaurant industry."

For several months, city staff have been meeting with vendors and those affected by their presence on downtown streets. Several versions of the permit have been drafted, and city staff believed a middle ground has been reached, according to the memo.

That middle ground is known as the Mobile Vendor Parking Permit (MVPP).

But the middle ground didn't last long after the public hearing. No one overtly favored it, although former hotelier Pat Sweeney had a couple of questions.

A lot of residents said they opposed it.

Some said the issue wasn't parking so much as a resistance to food trucks, which are increasingly popular throughout the country.

Jason Booth wondered if the MVPP would prohibit ice cream trucks on city-owned property leased to private users such as ball parks, and whether those trucks would need to file paperwork detailing every stop they made on a route through the city.

Shawn Houck, owner of Frontier Brewing, made several objections and offered several solutions:

  • The time restriction starting at 6 p.m. for the trucks was arbitrary, and suggested the times they could operate should conform to existing parking enforcement.
  • The ordinance applied to all food truck vendors throughout the city, but the issues centered on the downtown corridor.
  • The ordinance also limited vendors to eight permits a month. Instead, vendors should be able to apply for two permits a week because some months have five weekends, which are the vendors' busiest times.

Several residents said they have brick-and-mortar food businesses, but are expanding to offer food trucks as well.

Britnee Miller said she and her husband moved to Casper, own a food truck, and didn't plan to stay until they saw the opportunities that came along with the opening of the David Street Station.

But the MVPP ordinance so discouraged them that when they had the opportunity to buy a business out of state, they took it, Miller said.

Susan Oakes, owner of Hawaiian shaved ice truck Sugar & Ice, said the requirement to file the paperwork for a permit five days in advance would harm her business. If the weather turned bad on the day she scheduled a stop, she would lose the money she paid for the permit, she said.

After the public hearing, council members grappled with the issues raised by the residents.

Jesse Morgan and Charlie Powell said regulations and fees are necessary because the vendors are using public spaces.

Morgan chided unnamed critics who blasted him on Facebook and falsely said the ordinance was an attempt to ban food trucks.

Morgan added the MVPP ordinance had nothing to do with leased city property, and would not affect the vendors Booth mentioned.

Bob Hopkins said the ordinance was too broad, and needed to be limited to Second Street between Durbin and David streets.

Council adopted an amendment that did just that, which exempted nearly all the MVPP requirements for vendors elsewhere in the city.

It also eliminated the five-day advance permit requirement, had the permits follow the guidelines of existing traffic enforcement, and will set an annual as yet unspecified fee for all vendors citywide.

However, Dallas Laird and Kenyne Humphrey were skeptical and proffered a motion to table the ordinance until they could see the amended version in writing, but the rest of council voted it down.

Council then voted to approve the ordinance on first reading, with Laird and Humphrey voting no. The second reading is scheduled for the next council meeting on April 17.

After the vote, Oakes and a couple other vendors said they were mostly pleased with the amended ordinance.

"As it stands now, it doesn't hurt me," she said. "This is an okay medium."