Council expresses concerns regarding transient vendors

Nearly a year ago, food trucks lined Main Street with crowds flocking to the town’s main thoroughfare in droves to see what the township’s first food truck event held in store. Encouraged by the success of the first event, the township’s Economic Development Advisory Committee has been hard at work to bring the evening of food and fun back this summer.

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But the permits and background checks required by any food truck vendor planning to attend quickly became a source of vigorous debate at the most recent meeting of Moorestown Township council. Council members questioned the fees and expiration dates and raised larger questions about transient vendors coming to Moorestown.

Under the ordinance passed on Monday night, transient vendors must pay a $75 fee for a community event permit, in addition to conducting a background check on their employees working the event. In the past, vendors had to pay $75 per employee, and Moorestown police conducted a background check on each employee. Under the new ordinance, the $75 covers the entire business with the owner/operator certifying that the background checks have been conducted and will be available for inspection on the day of the event.

Councilwoman Victoria Napolitano said she didn’t see the incentive for vendors to purchase a community event permit. The community event permit expires the day of the event, but their original transient vendor permit is also $75, valid for 30 days and can be renewed for a $10 fee. She said she didn’t see why a vendor would opt for the one-day permit as opposed to something they could renew and use to return to town.

Township Manager Thomas Neff said the original intention was to have a permit that would be valid for a year but that vendors could only use it the day of community events. Napolitano suggested adding that the permit is renewable for additional one-day events for a $10 fee for a period of 365 days, which council agreed to insert into the ordinance.

Councilman Michael Locatell raised larger questions about transient vendors coming to Moorestown. He said his biggest concern was that certain vendors – such as ice cream trucks – are stopping along Main Street and stealing business away from brick and mortar businesses. He said he wanted to add language to the ordinance that put a five-minute time limit on vendors.

He said he understood the desire to “rush” changes to the ordinance to make it easier to get food truck vendors on Main Street in time for the event, but he also wanted to address the businesses that are currently being affected by food trucks idling on Main Street.

“Why are we not addressing that?” Locatell said. “Are we going to wait until November when it really doesn’t matter because they’re not selling ice cream the way they do in July?”

Deputy Mayor Nicole Gillespie said she understood and agreed with his concerns but felt like they might be trying to cram too much into one ordinance. She said the vendors idling on Main Street pose a different issue than permitting workers at food truck events, and they need to have EDAC take a look at ways to contend with these issues. She suggested that they may need to pass multiple ordinances related to transient vendors.

“There’s a lot of things that need to be addressed here,” Gillespie said.

Neff said he’d see to it that an ordinance addressing the idling was presented at the next council meeting.

The next meeting of Moorestown Township Council will take place on Monday, July 8 at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall.

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