FARGO - The Fargo City Commission will vote Monday, July 2, on whether to launch a pilot program that would allow food trucks and street vendors to operate on public streets.
If approved, food trucks will be allowed to park on public rights-of-way within the business district, with the exception of 10th Street North, Main Avenue, Broadway, Roberts Street and a stretch of NP Avenue.
Nicole Crutchfield, planning director for the City Planning and Development Department, said the Food Truck Pilot Program proposal came out of community input during Downtown InFocus, a long-term plan for Fargo's downtown, and from vendors.
Crutchfield said food trucks are part of a growing nationwide trend. They're considered a way to get people out and about in the city and to maintain the "vibrancy" of the downtown area. She said organizers based Fargo's pilot program on cities with a strong food truck culture such as Seattle and St. Paul.
Currently, food trucks operate mostly on private properties with permission from property owners. Food trucks can also operate in other public areas, like parks and state fairs, but must first obtain permission.
For food truck vendors, being able to sell on public streets means one thing: freedom.
Jason Halvorson, who operates Texas B BBQ, said there are only so many private properties that give permission for food trucks to operate there.
Octavio Gomez, owner of Taco Bros. on Roberts Street North, added that getting permission from private property owners is often difficult.
With the new program, vendors don't have to be beholden to one owner, he said.
"You get a lot of naysayers when looking for permission," Gomez said.
Gomez, who said he's content staying at his location on Roberts Street North, warned that issues may arise with some brick and mortar restaurants if food trucks are allowed to sell anywhere.
Halvorson, who's part of the Red River Valley Food Truck Association, disagreed. He said he doesn't expect any problems because most food truck operators would not want to operate in the way of brick and mortar restaurants.
Warren Ackley, owner of the Old Broadway at 22 Broadway in downtown Fargo, said restaurants might lose business if food trucks are allowed to park across the street from an existing restaurant. Ackley is also involved with several other downtown restaurants, including JL Beers, Vinyl Taco and NoBull Smokehouse.
He said food trucks benefit from nice weather and will attract business away from restaurants that put a lot of money into having outdoor patio space if allowed to park across the street.
He's primarily concerned about the boundaries of where food trucks can operate.
Traffic congestion was another potential problem pointed out by Gomez. Crutchfield said that traffic congestion will be monitored closely if the pilot program is approved.
Crutchfield said organizers will take note of issues such as trash, conflicts with existing businesses, and other nuisance issues like noise as well.
Food truck vendors will still need to follow parking regulations and restrictions, she said.
Dan Hurder, managing partner at Boiler Room restaurant, 210 Broadway N., said if managed properly, the freedom allowed for food trucks with the new project could be a positive for the downtown Fargo scene.
"With all new things come new challenges and new logistics, but I think we can all work together to work through it and make it viable for everybody," Hurder said.
The proposed pilot program would last from July 14 to Oct. 27. If it's deemed successful, then the city can begin work on an amendment to the current ordinance.
"It's gonna help a lot of food vendors," Gomez said.