With some members of Somerville Board of Aldermen voicing apprehension about how exactly to govern food trucks the city, it appears the Board will move forward with drafting a pilot program that will allow trucks in certain areas.
Exactly where the pilot program would take place and how it would work is up in the air. Some discussed running a pilot program in Union Square, and some thought other squares should also be included.
Aldermen discussed the matter Tuesday night at a public hearing about a proposed food truck ordinance that has been in the legislative matters committee for five months. Though the committee has already presented a complete draft ordinance to the Board, concerns from some members about food trucks sent the matter back to the drawing board.
Business owners weigh in
A number of local business owners spoke at the hearing, many of them supporting the idea of food trucks in principal but agreeing they need some sort of regulation over where, when and how they operate.
Conor Brennan, owner of P.J. Ryan's in Teele Square, said he thought certain types of food trucks, such as one serving Asian food, or an ice cream truck, could enhance food options the square.
"Somerville is not Davis Square or Union Square, Somerville is all the squares," he said, adding, he wants "to get the [food truck] opportunity up in Teele Square, too."
Ken Kelly, an owner of the Independent, Precinct, Saloon, Foundry on Elm and Davis Square Theatre—establishments in Union and Davis squares—said "I would like to see a pilot program throughout the city."
Robert Gregory, owner of Redbones in Davis Square, which operates a food truck, said, "I think it's worth an experiment" to encourage food trucks in the city.
As the law currently stands, food trucks are allowed to operate in Somerville with a state license, and the Board of Aldermen has been drafting the food truck ordinance to exert local control over them.
Other business owners were less enthusiastic about food trucks coming to Somerville, though none opposed them outright.
Maria Terranova, of Mike's Food & Spirits, a popular pizza and Italian restaurant in Davis Square, said she wouldn't want a pizza truck to open up right outside her front door.
She also talked about the investment bricks-and-mortar businesses make in an area, such as hiring pest control experts and staff to keep things clean and sanitary. Those commitments cost money, she said, and if food trucks created more trash, it wouldn't be fair to local business owners who pay the price.
"I really don't feel they should be in the heart of the [business] districts, maybe in the outskirts," she said.
Support from some residents
A few residents spoke, many in support of food trucks. Jack Cushman said food trucks are "laboratories and incubators" of new types of cuisine, and "I'd love to be in a city where those experiments happen."
"Try regulating less than you think you need to. See what happens," he said.
KyAnn Anderson said, "I'm in support of innovation coming to Somerville more than it already has."
"Who knows what could happen if we do this food ordinance right and we could generate foot traffic," she said.
Aldermen back pilot program, it seems
Ward 1 Aldermen William Roche, who has been the most vocal in his skepticism about food trucks, said, "I do want to make sure that the Somerville businesses that are very good to the city of Somerville aren't hurt in the process."
Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston said she supports a pilot program in Union Square, noting there are "several gaps" in the selection of cuisine in the area.
Tony Lafuente, alderman of Ward 4, said, "As a business model, I think food trucks could help existing businesses because of the competition. I think it could bring existing businesses up a notch."
"The key question is, where do they go, and where to the operate," said At-Large Alderman John Connolly. He also called for a pilot program and said it shouldn't be limited to Union Square.
The legislative matters committee will continue to work on its draft ordinance.