The Council Should Deliberate In Open Session On Solutions

Mayor Eddie Sundquist and the Jamestown City Council need to tread very carefully when it comes to food trucks downtown.

No one wants to see a possible new local favorite be turned away simply because of a restaurant is based in a truck rather than a brick-and-morter building.

At the same time, Jamestown’s high taxes are like a millstone around the necks of those who rent a storefront in the city. The cost of doing business in Jamestown is automatically higher than it is elsewhere in Chautauqua County because of the city’s tax burden. That means restaurants have to charge more for their wares because their rent is higher in Jamestown than it is elsewhere — somebody has to pay the piper his taxes, after all. The fee that we’re sure any city regulation of food trucks would include isn’t going to come close to the rent being paid by many of Jamestown’s restaurants.

It is into this morass that Sundquist and the council wade. The council’s concerns with food trucks are far from a political concern, with Republicans and Democrats alike sharing concerns with food trucks based on their conversations with downtown restaurants who are struggling under the weight of both the city’s existing lack of dependable foot traffic and restrictions forced upon them because of COVID-19.

One sticking point is the distance a food truck would have to be from the entrance to an existing restaurant. The council should also give consideration to a public safety concern that hasn’t been raised yet — sight lines for drivers. Parking vehicles on some streets can make sight lines difficult for drivers. Trying to see around a food truck could make some intersections nearly impossible to navigate safely.

There is no solution that will make everyone happy — no restaurant wants additional competition and food truck owners aren’t going to like protectionist limitations on distance. Sundquist and the council would be wise to find some middle ground, perhaps a limitation on areas where food trucks can be stationed or some hours limitations that protected brick-and-mortar restaurants while allowing fresh ideas to flourish. Perhaps there should be a limit on the number of food truck licenses the city gives out each year.

What we do know is now that the issue is out in the open, the council should deliberate in open session on possible solutions and make sure all those interested have a seat at the table.


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