FORT SMITH, AR – Mobile food vendors will be allowed to operate in the downtown area for the first time in more than 20 years when Fort Smith city directors voted to amend the city’s unified development ordinance.
A 6-0 vote Tuesday night, with Director George Catsavis absent, closed months of debate and cataloging of public opinion on whether mobile vendors should be allowed to operate in the Commercial-6 downtown district.
The ordinance sets the rules for the vendors operating on private property downtown, on public sidewalks and, during nighttime hours, on the city streets.
The only discussion before Tuesday’s vote came from City Director Kevin Settle, who said the most frequently asked question he received from the public was why vendors were not allowed to operate in the right of way of the main downtown street, Garrison Avenue.
Director of Development Services Wally Bailey said Garrison Avenue is Arkansas 22 inside the city, and state law bars food vending in the rights of way on state highways. Settle said city officials may want to ask legislators to consider changing that law in the next legislative session.
The amended mobile vending ordinance would, among other things, increase the term of a mobile food vending permit from 120 days to one year and lower the fee from $250 to $150. Mobile vendors will not be required to move when they renew their permits.
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