Mobile food vendors previously liscensed in The Dalles as transient merchants will be operating under new food vendor permits in the coming year, following adoption of new codes by The Dalles city council in December.

Prior to the change, food carts in the city were permitted as transient merchants, a category that included all temporary or short-term vendors, including food carts. Under the new rules, operators will be able to license their food carts under short, medium and long-term regulations, according to the staff report.

Type 1 or short-term licenses will be available in 30 day increments, renewable up to 180 days. Type 2 or medium-term licenses will be available in one-year increments, with a two year maximum. Type 3 or long-term licenses will apply to food carts with related structures and connections to city utilities like water and sewer.

Type 1 and 2 food vendors will not be allowed to connect to public utilities and can provide outdoor seating (4 tables with 6 seats at each table maximum) only when a restroom facility with a hand washing station is available within one-quarter mile walking distance or within a five-minute walk from the mobile food unit.  

Type III vendors include those seeking to connect to public utilities, those requesting additional structures or seating areas other than the allowed outright uses, or those requesting more than one food truck to be located on the same lot. Long term vendors will be required to complete a site review, which is a planning process that addresses parking and permanent or semi-permanent structures, like dining canopies.

Under the new regulations, the City will require documentation showing where water will be collected from and how waste (wastewater, oil and grease) will be disposed of.

Councilor Rod Runyon asked what options were available for the type 2 vendor if the two year limit was not enough.

“They would have to move to a new location,” said associate planner Riley Marcus. “A food cart that remains over two years is more like a restaurant, less like a mobile vendor. It ends at that location.”

Councilor Russ Brown asked if the new regulations would impact events like the carnival, and was told that city-sanctioned events were exempt from the permit requirements.

Marcus noted that there had been issues in recent years regarding grease being dumped in storm drains, and RV dump stations being used for waste disposal. “We are proposing waste collection services,” Marcus said.

Currently a $10 investigation fee and a separate license fee is required to apply for a transient merchant license.. The current license fee for one month or less is $25 and an annual fee is $50, a total of $35 or $60 dollars with the investigation fee.With the proposed changes, the investigation fee for a Transient Merchant License and a Mobile Food Vendor will be $20. To help offset the higher cost of the investigation fee, the $20 will apply towards the license fee.

The new license fees for mobile food vendors are Type I, $30 (valid for 30 days) and $25 per extension; Type II, $150 (Valid for 12 months) and $130 for an extension (valid for one additional 12-month period). Type III will require a site plan review fee of $440.

If a Mobile Food Vendor offers at least two “healthy” items on their menu, they will receive a 15 percent reduction in permit fees.

Vendors will be allowed on private property in various commercial zones, but in residential zones they will only be allowed in areas zoned as neighborhood centers.

The new regulations were approved unanimously following a public hearing, in which no comments were made.

When asked about the approved regulations, Samir Marqez, who operates a food cart at Jefferson and Second streets, said rules specific to food vendors would be welcomed. “We aren’t just general street vendors, it could help to have rules specifically for food trucks,” Marquez told the Chronicle. He has been a vendor since 2008, and is in his third year at his current location. He said what is or isn’t allowed by the city has been inconsistent. “We hope to stay here,” he added. “Hopefully next year will be another good year.”

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