NEWPORT — The parking lot next to the Gateway Center was among the suggestions Newport City Councilors considered as potential spots for food trucks to park and serve their food.
The City Council, Councilors Angela McCalla and Kathryn Leonard absent, held a workshop on Wednesday evening to explore the best places to allow food trucks in the city. The discussion over where food trucks should be allowed to operate has been ongoing since the City Council first adopted an ordinance to regulate them in 2019, but revived in 2020 after the council received complaints over traffic safety, noise pollution and competition with brick-and-mortar restaurants on Bellevue Avenue picked up during the pandemic.
In January, during the license renewals for two of the food trucks in town, Councilor Kathryn Leonard asked for a workshop to be scheduled, recalling a promise the council made to reexamine the current regulations on Mobile Food Establishments.
Wednesday’s workshop was brief, with councilors primarily asking questions of Attorney John Boxer, who represents La Forge Casino restaurant and its affiliated food trucks. Operators for those food trucks also attended the meeting. Boxer told the councilors the zoning ordinance was very limited and Bellevue Avenue is one of the few viable places in the city where the trucks can park and still follow the zoning regulations.
Councilor Charlie Holder, who also works as a general manager for Midtown Oyster Bar on Lower Thames Street, said he doesn’t think food trucks are compatible with Newport’s tight streets and limited parking, but argued a central place for food trucks to congregate would be a good compromise. Holder said the parking lot in front of Innovate Newport could be viable, but City Manager Joe Nicholson said the lot is usually full of cars and not large enough to accommodate multiple trucks.
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The beaches were another location option mentioned by Boxer, which amused the council and staff, as the commercial-use restrictions for the beaches are even more strict than in other areas of the city. Councilor Lynn Underwood Ceglie asked if Miantonomi Park could also be considered, however, despite the park being one of two locations trucks can operate as mentioned in the ordinance, Boxer and Assistant City Solicitor Girard Galvin said it generates less revenue than other areas.
Nicholson said the city has looked into the lot next to Gateway Center as a potential candidate for food trucks to congregate. Having a centralized location for food trucks like the Gateway Center could provide the city an opportunity to create an attractive area for people to go and enjoy the food trucks as well, Councilor Jamie Bova said. She pointed to other food truck parks in other cities with lights and benches, however, one of the issues with multiple trucks in the same area, Nicholson said, is the trash they generate and the city’s ability to manage that.
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Earlier in the meeting, Bova had asked if it would be possible to require food trucks to provide a trash receptacle outside their business, as this is already required of restaurants through the city code. The councilors asked Galvin to look into the city’s ability to add that provision into the ordinance.
Another environmentally-related concern Ceglie brought up was whether truck engines were on while they are parked and serving food, which could potentially violate the city’s ordinance against idling buses and trucks, but a truck operator present at the meeting clarified the kitchens in the truck were powered by a separate generator. The noise from said generators was another complaint received by the councilors from residents near Wellington Avenue, one of the places food trucks stop, due to the noise. Boxer said the trucks he represents have accommodated the complaint by switching to quieter generators.
This article originally appeared on Newport Daily News: Newport food trucks could be located in Gateway Center parking lot