South Portland may pave the way for food trucks

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council is considering giving food trucks more leeway to operate on public property.

At a workshop session on Monday, councilors seemed to be in favor of allowing trucks to set up at the Wainwright Recreation Area, Bug Light Park, on Waterman Drive near Thomas Knight Park, on Hinckley Drive next to Mill Creek Park, and at other city and school-owned properties for specific events. 

The trucks would be permitted to operate between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., provided they obtained a $120 permit, a $400,000 liability insurance policy and comply with other health and safety rules, such as not blocking traffic.

Councilor Linda Cohen, who proposed the rules, said food trucks have become increasingly popular in greater Portland and encourage entrepreneurs.

“Food trucks are a good way for young people to start a business,” Cohen said.

She said that the city should have similar ordinances to Portland, to enable the food trucks to travel back and forth between the cities easily. 

Mayor Patti Smith said she would “love to see food trucks move freely.”

Smith said she thought it is time for the city to act and send invitations to food truck vendors to let them know they are welcome.

Councilor Maxine Beecher said some people have complained that food and drinks are not available at the Wainwright, so maybe food trucks would set up there.

“We are missing the boat if we don’t bring in the food trucks,” Beecher said.

Councilor Claude Morgan spoke about the the growing popularity of food trucks across the country, noting that people follow the trucks on Facebook and that the traveling kitchens often have crowds of people waiting for them before they even arrive. 

Councilors were in favor of a rule that would prohibit food trucks from operating within 500 feet of a licensed, brick-and-mortar food establishment.

Public Services property

In other business, councilors discussed creation of a working group to recommend what to do with six acres of property at O’Neil Street that will be vacated when Public Services moves to its new location on Highland Avenue later this year.

The group is expected to meet six times over the next few months to discuss the property “in the heart of the Meetinghouse Hill neighborhood,” according to a city memo.

According to the memo, after completing an environmental assessment, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection said the property was a “likely candidate for residential (unrestricted) development.” 

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or Follow her on Twitter@melaniesochan.