Council looks to modernize ordinance in age of food trucks and mobile vendors

Councilwoman Lisa Petriello questioned the township’s current restrictions on transient vendors.

At the most recent meeting of Moorestown Township Council, amendments to an ordinance related to “transient vendors” had Councilwoman Lisa Petriello questioning how laws could be modernized in the age of food trucks and other mobile vendors.

The ordinance passed on first reading was amended to include minor updates to language. The additions clarify the process that any transient vendor must complete a background check to be eligible to obtain a permit.

Petriello said her involvement in May’s 1st Annual Moorestown Paddleboard/Kayak Race at Strawbridge Lake — an event that had “transient” vendors coming in to sell food and other wares — alerted her to the involved process visiting merchants undergo to temporarily set up shop in Moorestown. She said in her eyes, there is a discrepancy when visitors who are visiting have to undergo background checks while merchants with brick and mortar businesses in town do not.

She suggested sending the ordinance through the Economic Development Advisory Committee for further examination. Petriello also proposed looking at other towns to see how they handle incoming food trucks and other vendors.

“Is it time to take a look at this ordinance, I guess, in a different world and maybe bring it more up to speed with modern day realities?” Petriello asked.

Township Clerk Patricia Hunt explained the impetus for the minor updates. She said under the previous ordinance, once vendors were issued a permit, it expired in two weeks, and the police department was repeatedly issuing permits to the same vendors due to the quick expiration. The update enables vendors to obtain a 30-day or one-year permit.

Township Manager Thomas Merchel said the biggest obstacle for vendors looking to get involved in township events is the background check. He said too often they come in the week before for a permit, which does not allow the department sufficient time to run the check.

Councilman Michael Locatell said he agreed vendors should undergo background checks, but he questioned if there was language restricting vendors to only set up at township-sponsored events. He voiced concerns about vendors setting up on other days and competing with brick and mortar businesses. Delgado echoed the sentiment, inquiring if there was a way to specify the permit was only good for township-sponsored events.

Mayor Stacey Jordan suggested passing the ordinance with the small clarifying changes and then sending the ordinance back to EDAC for a more thorough review.

In other news:

  • Council adopted an ordinance on second reading appropriating $725,000 for the resurfacing of Garwood Road. Councilwoman Victoria Napolitano said this project includes the widening of a parking area for the Esther Yanai Preserve. In November, Steve Yanai donated $25,000 to the township toward creating a parking lot on Garwood Road in the hope that with a parking lot in place, more residents will frequent the preserve named after his late wife.
  • The next meeting of Moorestown Township Council will take place on Monday, June 25, at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall.