By Martha Stoffel
O’FALLON – The O’Fallon City Council approved the mobile food vendor ordinance Monday night with a vote of 8-4. Discussions surrounding regulation of food trucks, specifically in downtown O’Fallon, has been ongoing since September.
At the last city council meeting, a motion was approved for the ordinance to be sent back to the Community Development Committee for a second reading. Lengthy discussion took place at last week’s Community Development Committee meeting between committee members, other council members, staff and residents. Ultimately, the committee voted to send the ordinance to council for second reading with no changes.
The ordinance establishes that each food truck will be required to get an annual mobile food truck license through the city that will cost $125, as well as a $25 annual food license. The license will be issued by the City Clerk’s office and will require appropriate permits from the county health department before issuance. The license covers from May 1st – April 30th of each fiscal year.
A special event permit will be required for a food truck to operate at any time in the city of O’Fallon. The permit will be issued through the Community Development Department, after approval by City Council. The council will review each event permit (for at least the first year) and will be able to put in place any specific restrictions (location, time, date etc.) necessary at that time and on a case-by-case basis. The special event permit may be requested by an individual food truck or the event organizer, this will include events organized by the O’Fallon Parks and Recreation Department. It was clarified at the committee meeting that multiple events, at the same location by the same organizer, could be approved under one special event permit.
Ward 3 alderman Matthew Gilreath took time during discussion at Monday’s council meeting to explain why he would be voting no on the ordinance. Gilreath expressed intent to take care of the people that have been in town and invested in our town, but also recognized we have a community where new things can happen and we can have opportunities to have new developments and new businesses.
“I think we’re getting into too much government reach. I think we need to definitely have things like licenses…traffic control and where they are allowed to set-up. Putting it into our hands with the special event permits gives us too much oversight. I don’t think we need to pick and choose who we allow and who we don’t allow. I think if somebody has private property, and it’s zoned for business, and somebody wants to have a food truck up there that should be their right.”
Gilreath also reminded council he has brought up at previous committee meetings a desire to see some exemptions in place regarding food trucks for businesses that have brick and mortar locations in O’Fallon.
Ward 6 alderman Ned Drolet also mentioned his problem with the perception of a portion of the ordinance, and that he would also be voting no. Aldermen Smallheer and Meile resigned prior to the meeting, so they were unable to vote. Ward 2 Aldermen Jerry Albrecht and Bob Kueker joined Gilreath and Drolet in voting no, but there were enough votes for the ordinance to pass.
Council also approved the 2018 tax levy. The proposed tax levy request is $6,688,900, a 0.86% increase from 2017. A tax levy request is based on a dollar amount, not a rate, so the city tax rate will be determined upon final calculation by the county of the City’s total Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) from property assessments. The tax rate will not be set by the county until April 2019, so it is unclear what the actual rate will be at this time. Despite the 0.86% increase to the levy, staff is projecting the city’s tax rate to go down slightly from last year because of the 1.1% total increase to the rate setting EAV currently estimated by the county assessor’s office.