OBERLIN, OH — Oberlin residents may soon be able to add “downtown food trucks” to the list of reasons to be excited for summer.
Council members unanimously passed a second reading Monday to create an ordinance regulating food trucks in downtown Oberlin. Food trucks have been permitted in the city at special events in the past, including the city’s annual Juneteenth celebration, but there is not an ordinance that would allow and regulate food trucks on a more regular basis.
According to the proposed ordinance, a food truck owner would have to pay a $500 application fee, not park in diagonal parking spaces and only set up at times and areas decided by the city manager.
Though all Council members voted for the ordinance Monday, some were wary of the problems food trucks could cause for parking and local businesses.
“Where would a food truck zone be to handle four or five food trucks?” Council member Ron Rimbert asked at the meeting Monday. One of the few places a truck could park without violating the diagonal space rule would be around Tappan Square, something Rimbert said could mar the beauty of the area.
“I hope we would not clutter up Tappan Square with food trucks … that would be a shame,” he added.
Others, like Council member Sharon Pearson, questioned whether food trucks could hurt local businesses, especially if the truck owners are coming from outside Oberlin. Pearson suggested imposing a different application fee for out-of-town food truck owners, though her suggestion was not further discussed Monday.
Oberlin Business Partnership Director Janet Harr, who spoke Monday night, argued that food trucks set up in downtown Oberlin might actually bring business to the city. She referenced “Walnut Wednesday” — a summer event in which food truck owners set up in downtown Cleveland one day out of the week. Businesses, including restaurants, actually report higher numbers of sales when food trucks are parked nearby because some people don’t want to wait in line for the trucks, Harr said.
“So many people come for the food trucks … that they end up going to the restaurants,” Harr said, suggesting a similar “Tappan Thursday,” event for Oberlin.
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