Westfield weighing rules of the road for food trucks

Mere months from opening day at its massive Grand Park Sports Campus, Westfield is drafting rules intended to protect nearby businesses from crowd-hungry food trucks.

A work-in-progress ordinance introduced to the Westfield City Council on Monday would only allow mobile food vendors to roll into town for special events, neighborhood parties and at the invitation of large employers—as long as they stay away from Grand Park.

The 400-acre youth sports megaplex debuting this spring is an economic development play for Westfield, which is looking to increase commercial investment and diversify its tax base. Officials are hoping all kinds of businesses are drawn to the million-plus visitors expected to flock to the park each year.

“This is going to become a pretty popular place,” said Matt Skelton, the city’s director of economic and community development.

Several bricks-and-mortar vendors have expressed interest in setting up shop at or near Grand Park, he told the council, but they’re understandably concerned about the potential for mobile competition.

Council President Jim Ake said it’s time for Westfield to lay out the rules of the road.

Other Hamilton County suburbs already have paved the way. Fishers passed an ordinance regulating food trucks in March, and Noblesville approved zoning changes—and an intentionally onerous $1,000 annual fee—in August.

As it stands now, Westfield’s proposed ordinance does not include a fee for the mobile vendors, which already must pay $100 for a county permit to sell food. (Fishers charges $200.) Skelton said the goal is to clarify the city’s policy, not create an additional layer of bureaucracy.

“We want to avoid a situation where trucks are pulling up to the curb to sell food and competing with the folks making an investment in our community,” he said.

The ordinance identifies an area around Grand Park—bounded by 196th Street to the north, State Road 32 to the south, U.S. 31 to the east and Spring Mill Road to the west—that's essentially off limits for food trucks.

Revisions are likely before the council votes on the ordinance. Members offered a range of suggestions Monday, and Ake said he wants public input on the proposal before it is finalized.

What’s your take on the ongoing food-truck debate? Do the mobile kitchens really pose a threat to restaurants?
 

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