Mobile food trucks will be permitted in the City of Edmonds following a unanimous decision by the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night. But don’t expect to see them on every street corner: The council-approved measure only allows them on private property (with permission of the property owner) or on city parks property if they have obtained a concessions permit. They are also prohibited from operating in residentially zoned areas.
Councilmembers listened to public testimony on the issue, including a statement from Edmonds resident Priya Sinha, who said she did not agree with those who believe that food trucks have an unfair advantage over existing restaurants because they have fewer expenses. “We are a capitalist society,” Sinha said. “If you can’t compete you should go out of business.” Sinha also pointed out that the trucks offer lower-cost food that is more affordable for teens and young families who may not be able to eat at a sit-down restaurant.
Once the public hearing was closed, the council spent a fair amount of time considering tweaks to the proposed language, which had been originally considered by the Edmonds Planning Board and revised by city staff following a council work sesssion. Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis and Lora Petso had originally proposed that mobile trucks be limited to a one-mile radius away from Edmonds’ three most popular festivals — A Taste of Edmonds, the Arts Festival and the Waterfront Festival — since those volunteer-run events have their own food vendors that pay a fee to participate. After much discussion, that radius was reduced to one-quarter mile, which the majority of councilmembers believed was sufficient to protect festival interests.
Petso also introduced a motion that would have prohibited the food trucks from locating in neighborhood business zones — such as Five Corners, Firdale Village and Westgate, stating: “I would rather not have them in zones that are commonly adjacent to residential areas.” However, she received no support for the idea from fellow councilmembers.
The council decided not to approve other types of mobile vendors, such as a mobile boutique, and stick with food trucks only — at least for now. Councilmembers also agreed to limit to 15 the number of mobile truck permits issued, after which the council would automatically review the overall operation to determine if there are any problems or other changes that need to be made.
Once that issue was decided, another item on the agenda created lively debate: Whether the City of Edmonds should continue to provide back-up service for the nearby Town of Woodway’s police department, which currently is staffed only eight hours a day. Under the current interlocal agreement between the two municipalities, Woodway only pays when police respond — on a “fee per call” basis. Some of the councilmembers expressed their strong objections to this system, and instead called on Woodway to either cover the cost of 24/7 police service or find someone else to do the job.
Council President Strom Peterson proposed that the council — in the spirit of being a good neighbor — consider a compromise that would have Woodway pay a flat fee of $2,800 per month, with any police calls beyond 10 billed at $280 per call. This would bring to the city $33,000 a year, “which is nearly triple what Woodway has been paying over the last few years,” Peterson said.
However, Councilmembers Petso, Joan Bloom and Adrienne Fraley-Monillas were adamant that they didn’t want to see Edmonds citizens subsidizing Woodway during these tough budgetary times.
“I understand there’s niceness about being a good neighbor…but we are essentially putting the burden on our taxpayers,” Bloom said. “I just can’t justify doing that in our economic climate right now.”
Mayor Dave Earling noted that if the council walks away from the Woodway contract altogether, “that’s money we won’t have next year,” adding that is no small consideration as the city eyes a $1 million-plus budget deficit. Earling suggested the council spend additional time crunching the numbers before making a final decision; the council voted 4-3 (Fraley-Monillas, Petso and Bloom opposed) to delay the decision for two weeks.
Because of the lengthy discussion on food trucks and the Woodway police contract, the council voted to delay consideration of another major agenda item — whether to exclude offices from ground floor retail spaces in the core business zones downtown — to an as-yet-to-be-determined later date.
Also Tuesday night, the council public unanimously approved designating the Allen House, located at 310 Sunset Ave. N., for inclusion on the Edmonds Register of Historic Places.