The Casper City Council decided Tuesday night that food trucks can continue to obtain parking permits downtown while city staff develops a new policy on mobile vendors.
City staff was not planning to have the policy prepared until spring, but the Council directed City Manager Carter Napier to speed up this process and have a recommendation ready within 30 days.
Food trucks became a divisive issue last summer when they started routinely parking in the city’s center on Fridays and Saturdays. Some brick-and-mortar establishments are upset because the permits are free and the trucks take away parking spaces from potential customers; others think they offer a fun dining option and bring more people downtown.
Councilmen Bob Hopkins and Shawn Johnson both voiced concerns about allowing the existing permit process to continue.
“I think this is getting really out of control,” said Johnson, adding that he felt suspending the permits for downtown was appropriate until a new policy was in effect.
But most of the Council felt there was no need to suspend the permits if a policy was going to be proposed in a month.
“I think food trucks add to the vibrancy of downtown,” said Councilman Dallas Laird, adding that customers ultimately go to the spot they believe offers the best product.
Vice Mayor Charlie Powell then urged the opposing sides to work on repairing their relationships.
“[This conflict is] the exact opposite of what we wanted to see downtown,” he said.
Food trucks have especially created tension between some downtown merchants and the owners of Frontier Brewing Company, who have encouraged the trucks to park in front of the East Second Street brewery.
Shawn Houck, Frontier’s co-owner, told the Star-Tribune last month that he doesn’t understand why the issue is controversial.
“We have a parking garage half a block away,” he said, adding that he thinks the trucks are beneficial for everyone because they draw people to the area.
But Charlie T’s Pizzeria owner Duane Jensen maintains brick-and-mortar businesses lose customers if parking isn’t available in front of the establishments that customers want to frequent.
“I don’t want to have food trucks shut down, but I want them to have a place to go that’s not in front of a restaurant,” he said last month.
The City Council decided last month to continue issuing parking permits while city staff works to create a new policy. But the Council reconsidered that decision after Jacquie Anderson, the owner of Jacquie’s Bistro, told the Council last week that it was allowing “chaos” to continue downtown.
Some downtown business owners attended Tuesday’s meeting but Council members do not typically take public comment during work sessions.