A pilot project that would allow up to four food trucks in Central Saanich’s Centennial Park remains on the table but also in limbo.
Council asked for additional information on the subject to come back before their June 14 meeting, following discussion of a staff report detailing the pilot project, which is proposed to operate from June 26 to Sept. 6.
But the council discussion earlier this month revealed a range of reactions, eventually leading to the referral back to staff after questions about operating hours and licensing requirements emerged.
While Central Saanich already allows foods trucks in certain circumstances, such as during Music in the Park at Pioneer Park and the Peninsula Country Market, the pilot is designed to help the community recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
An unspecified number of food and beverage businesses rely on summer events to support them and have been looking for public places to operate, the report stated.
But the district has also heard from at least one operator concerned by the municipality enabling competitors, who do not have the overhead and labour costs of businesses with fixed locations. This perspective found its most vocal advocate in Coun. Zeb King.
“We don’t have the luxury to be experimenting right now,” said King, the lone council member to vote against the referral. “This risks the survival of some businesses.”
Coun. Gordon Newton acknowledged that argument, but pointed out food trucks give businesses the ability to reach different audiences.
Coun. Niall Paltiel agreed, arguing food truck operators have also faced economic difficulties. Council has the option of revisiting the issue, he added, after the project ends. Coun. Chris Graham, meanwhile, pointed to the possibility of future COVID-19 waves in favour of the project.
Paltiel proposed that food trucks be allowed to operate between 3 and 9 p.m., rather than 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. as initially proposed, while Graham questioned whether food truck operators should be licensed in Central Saanich.
Speaking after the vote, Paltiel said he believes a compromise can be found to allow for food trucks but also protect eateries and cafes.
“After at all, local food trucks are local Central Saanich businesses as well,” he said. “They have got people to employ, they have got families to support and they deserve our support just like we need to be supporting our local cafes, restaurants and other businesses.”
This said, the business community and the community-at-large must also be on board, Paltiel said, acknowledging the reservations of his colleagues. “Ultimately, it seems council wants to study this further.”
A number of communities in Greater Victoria including Saanich, Sooke and Colwood are rolling out pilot projects for food trucks in parks in the coming weeks, but not without controversies along the way.
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