With the warm weather months ahead the city of Springfield, Massachusetts is looking to regulate food trucks and similar roadside vendors. It is an issue many municipalities dealt with years ago, but it has so far eluded the state’s third-largest city.
City councilors in Springfield are working on the final details of an ordinance that would replace an archaic law and unenforceable rules that currently apply to food trucks and similar vendors. City Councilor Tom Ashe said he is optimistic the issue will finally be resolved after years of discussion and setbacks
" I am sure we will have an ordinance that addresses public safety and sets a level playing field for all the vendors."
Ashe, who is chair of the council’s public safety committee, said after a meeting Tuesday he believes one more hearing involving the vendors and officials from several city departments with a stake in the outcome will produce a final bill for the full council to vote on.
The proposed ordinance would spell out definitions, establish fees and set fines for violations, and create a “Mobile Food Trucks Committee” that would be authorized to come up with rules and regulations and review license applications. The committee would have representatives from the police, health, assessors, and licensing departments, and the Springfield Parking Authority.
Food trucks and similar vendors in Springfield are now governed by a law dating back to 1934 that was written for hawkers and peddlers. It does not allow for sellers to remain stationary. Police say enforcement is impractical, but food trucks do get ticketed for parking violations.
The issue of regulating street vendors in Springfield first surfaced five years ago when John Verducci complained that he was being forced to leave a spot in the city’s entertainment district where has been selling hot dogs for more than 25 years. He is still able to conduct business, but at a price.
" It's the parking authority, they enforce you with tickets."
Verducci is a leading advocate of new rules for food trucks in Springfield.
" It'll set a fixed cost and it will be legal and it won't be as much as a hassle."
The city council in 2010 approved a home rule bill that gave the police commissioner the authority to license roadside vendors, but the special bill was never approved on Beacon Hill. The ordinance currently under consideration would not require special state legislation.
The proposed ordinance draws from laws governing food trucks in Boston, Hartford, and Philadelphia.