The long-standing debate about when and where food trucks should be allowed to park in downtown Casper — or whether they should be banned altogether — appears to be coming to an end.
The Casper City Council passed an ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting that allows mobile vendors to continue parking downtown, but requires a fee for parking permits and establishes time restrictions.
The ordinance will need to pass one more round of voting to take effect.
James and Nichole Andrews, the owners of Smoked N Tender food truck, said Wednesday that they’re relieved the matter is almost settled.
“It brings some peace to my head at least,” James Andrews said.
The ordinance would require vendors to pay a $25 fee per day and per parking space for downtown spots. It would only permit parking in the city’s center after 3 p.m. on weekdays and after 1 p.m. on weekends.
The application for a parking permit must be co-signed by a downtown business owner or manager and the space requested must be within 30 feet of that property. It also caps the number of vendors who can park within a given downtown block to 10 per month.
Food truck owners who want to park downtown without the hassle of fees and paperwork will have an additional option. At Vice Mayor Charlie Powell’s suggestion, the city manager will select an area in the city’s core where these regulations will not apply.
The Andrews said they understand the need for some restrictions and are pleased that food trucks won’t be completely banned from Casper’s center.
“That would be unfair to the patrons that like to see food trucks downtown,” James Andrews said.
Although most City Council members supported the ordinance, councilmen Bob Hopkins and Shawn Johnson voted against the measure, arguing that more restrictions were needed.
Both councilmen have repeatedly expressed concerns that allowing food trucks to park alongside downtown establishments will ultimately harm the city by causing brick-and-mortar establishments to close.
But most of the Council agreed that their constituents enjoy having new dining options and doubted that allowing food trucks downtown on a limited basis would lead to the demise of other businesses.
The debate over food trucks started last summer when a few started parking in downtown Casper on the weekends, a move that angered some owners of brick-and-mortar establishments.
Among their concerns: Food trucks take away parking spots from potential customers, block the view of storefronts and have an unfair advantage because their parking permits are free.
Some food truck owners said that their businesses were already regulated enough because they are required to pay sales tax to Casper and must have business licenses and health inspections. Some also argued that those who objected are just afraid of competition.
The issue quickly grew heated, with those on both sides accusing the other of trying to sabotage their businesses and refusing to compromise.
City Manager Carter Napier said Wednesday that he believes the proposed ordinance takes into account both sides’ concerns.
He’s hopeful that people on both sides of the debate will accept the outcome.
“I think part of the frustration has been not knowing what they will have to work with going forward,” he said.
The city manager added that he’s considering establishing the plot south of the former Plains Furniture store as the regulation-free spot for food trucks.
“There is an open parking area there right now, its not in great shape, but at the end of the day that might not be a bad option,” he said.