Food cart proposal riles downtown Delaware business owners
Downtown developer Joe Diamond is appalled at the thought of allowing mobile food vendors in the city’s core business district, he told Delaware City Council Monday night.
Diamond expressed the sentiment of many others in business in downtown Delaware during the third reading of a proposed zoning change intended to help city officials better deal with applicants seeking temporary permits to set up mobile food services in downtown Delaware.
The largest real estate developer in the downtown Delaware area, Diamond represents between $10 million to $12 million in revitalization to the businesses in the area, he said.
One of those businesses includes the Old Bag of Nails, a building that was empty for about seven years before being transformed into what it is today. That business represents a $1.5-million investment, employs about 70 people and has an approximate $300,000 payroll.
When the business decided to locate in Delaware, it had to pay several different kinds of fees, whereas, a mobile food vendor only pays a $25 permit fee to set up shop.
Frances Hamilton, the executive director of the nonprofit Main Street Delaware, downtown’s promotional organization, asked that council reinsert an exclusion zone that would limit where the vendors could set up shop so that transient vendors cannot operate in direct competition with the 18 downtown restaurants.
A downtown business owner, Joanne Meyer of the Backstretch Bar, said she isn’t opposed to having transient vendors in downtown.
“I view the vendors as adding more diversity,” Meyer said.
But Meyer was in the minority.
Al Myers, owner of Choffey’s Coffee and Confections, said the mobile vendors should be held to the same rigid historic standards to create a level playing field for all.
The guidelines at issue involve temporary uses (defined as a temporary set up less than 45 days) in the historic district. Any temporary outdoor use for less than 45 days is reviewed by city staff and can bypass a hearing at HPC.
However, the same commission will review those temporary outdoor uses that are longer than 45 days.
The city’s current zoning calls for a fee and application process through the HPC since a mobile vendor would present an environmental change in the historic district, the area that the commission oversees.
After the city planning commission’s discussion on the issue last month, it recommended that no exclusion zone be included. Following the public feedback and council discussion at Monday’s meeting, council decided to send the issue back to the city’s planning commission with the recommendation that the exclusion zone be included again.