Wednesday June 26, 2013

HOWARD WEISS-TISMAN

Brattleboro Reformer

BRATTLEBORO -- The Brattleboro Planning Commission has approved new zoning rules that identify mobile food carts and which regulate how they can be set up on private property to satisfy the town’s zoning ordinance.

The town has zoning regulations that govern how food carts can be set up on public land, such as town sidewalks, but there were no zoning rules addressing issues such as parking, signage and pedestrian safety.

The Planning Commission took up the issue to address the growing popularity of mobile food carts across the country and in Brattleboro.

A number of food cart operators attended the meeting Monday night and offered suggestions which the Planning Commission included in the final draft which will now be handed over to the Selectboard for final approval.

Amy Gallant, co-owner of Humble Kitchen, a food cart that is set up in the Harmony Parking Lot, told the Planning Commission that the signs she had to mark off her eating area and protect pedestrians would not be allowed under the proposed ordinance.

The Planning Commission was going to limit the number of signs vendors could display but Gallant said the three signs she sets up actually improve the safety around the cart.

The Planning Commission agreed with Gallant and increased the number of signs allowed as site furniture under the ordinance.

And Barbara Nichols, co-owner of Steve’s Jamaican Food, a Putney Road food cart, said the proposed limit on the size of signs would make it hard for her to advertise her cart.

The commission also took Nichols’ suggestion under consideration and increased the square feet of signage allowed under the proposed ordinance.

In the end the commission voted to allow two free standing signs, totaling eight square feet, as well as a wall sign as large as 32 square feet.

Planning Commission Chairman James Valente said the commission took up the new ordinance to protect pedestrian safety and to make sure the food carts did not violate any existing zoning rules governing traffic flow and parking.

Under the proposed ordinance the zoning administrator would visit a site and make sure it met all of the requirements of the food cart rules.

Valente said the Selectboard will determine the annual fee, though he said the Planning Commission will recommend that the annual food cart permit be priced at $40.

The Selectboard will be asked to approve the ordinance at its next meeting.