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Public has plenty to say as Wellesley looks at food truck bylaw

Wellesley may welcome food trucks, but residents have a long list of questions before that time, as witnessed at a public meeting Tuesday night.

Residents packed into council chambers to provide input on a bylaw that would govern mobile food vendors operating in the township. The new rules are still in draft form, with final wording and a council decision unlikely before September at the earliest.

The goal is to have a bylaw in effect for Jan. 1, 2017.

The draft bylaw presented by staff at the June 7 meeting governs the operation of food trucks, setting out where and when they can set up shop, for instance.

A controversial topic in other municipalities, including elsewhere in Waterloo Region, mobile vendors became an issue when the Odd Duck made its home in Wellesley Village, sitting on Queen’s Bush Road. The full chambers in Crosshill spoke to the public interest, with nearly half of the attendees sporting red T-shirts in support of the venture.

The majority of speakers made it clear that they were in favour of food trucks, but wanted clearer rules and more consideration given to residents in subsequent versions of the bylaw.

Township clerk Grace Kosch presented the draft, highlighting the legislation already in place in surrounding municipalities, potential restrictions on mobile food truck locations, requirements for licensing and a fee schedule.

Trucks have to be at least 90 meters from each other and existing restaurants, 100 meters from a school and at least nine meters from an intersection. There is no wording about locating in residential neighbourhoods.

That was the concern of Ron Schultz who lives on Queen’s Bush Road. He was first up to the microphone, expressing his support for the new business venture.

“I am in favour of new food vendors, but I have looked through your bylaw proposal, and one thing I would like to see adjusted, or amended or included, would be a minimum distance from residents,” he told councillors, referencing the draft restrictions to food truck location around schools, existing businesses and parkland. “I live in an urban commercial zone, but I would ask that food trucks would not be permitted in such an area.”

The bylaw specifies that mobile food vendors would not be allowed to operate on township property, prompting resident Susan Prang to question how food trucks would differ from the farmers’ market that operates through the summer months.

“The market is on township property, and we have farmers selling both produce that they grew as well as things that they bake. I am not sure that your bylaw hasn’t restricted it for us,” she said.

Mayor Joe Nowak assured her that her concerns were heard and that the issue would be addressed.

A resident who has previously spoken out against the Odd Duck food truck, Tara Schneider, presented a detailed critique of the proposed bylaw.

One of her many concerns had to do with the unclear definitions written into the document, for which she requested clarification and consistency in the next draft. She lives on Water Street in Wellesley.

“I think the definitions, several of them, need to be beefed up and clarified, including the mention in here of ice cream bicycles, there doesn’t seem to be reference to drive-thru restaurants, which is sort of tied hand in hand in our zoning bylaws, and that should probably carry forward,” said the Water Street resident.

Those in attendance having given their remarks, councillors noted they would not be making a decision, nor even offering up any opinions at the meeting. The fate of the bylaw and food trucks will be decided at a later date after all the input had been examined and a staff report drafted for discussion.

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