Council considers how to allow mobile vendors
Winthrop will once again consider allowing food trucks to supplement the town’s eating options.
But food carts? Not so much.
Neither food trucks nor carts are currently operating within town limits. But at last week’s Town Council meeting, the issue came up again — as it did in 2017 — because requests keep coming in, Town Planner Rocklynn Culp said. Last year, the idea was shunted aside because of concerns about how food trucks would be able to comply with Westernization requirements.
“There has been another inquiry,” Culp said, adding that the town should expect more.
Council member Bill McAdow said he was concerned that mobile food vendors would create competition for existing eateries. But other council members pointed out that the lack of adequate dining options has been a regular complaint when the town is flooded with visitors, such as during hockey tournaments.
Council member Joseph O’Driscoll noted that before any truck could start business, it would need to have an approved site and pass muster with the state health department.
As for food carts such as hotdog stands, O’Driscoll said, “they’re going to fail. They won’t work out with the demographics here.”
“A food truck will work, but not a food cart,” O’Driscoll said. “I’m not against it [considering food carts] but I don’t want to waste a lot of time on it.”
Culp said the town has had several inquires about food trucks over the past few years.
Technically, Culp said, food trucks are not prohibited. But finding a workable space for them to park has been a challenge, and they would have to undergo Westernization review.
That said, Culp added, “I can guarantee you we will continue to get pressure” to authorize food trucks to operate.
O’Driscoll said he considered that “no problem if they want to go through the hoops. It’s not going to go away.”
O’Driscoll said he knows several people who are interested in operating food trucks in town. “They will be on our door,” he said, with locations such as the rink, the ball field, the Winthrop Barn and Horizon Flats in mind.
“We don’t have a enough places to eat and that’s a problem,” O’Driscoll said
Mayor Sally Ranzau cited the situation when hundreds of hockey players and their families descend on the town, and there are few options for breakfast. She said food trucks might be desirable in some locations on a temporary basis.
“A food cart probably won’t work, but a food truck might,” the mayor said.
Culp said there is currently no provision that would allow food trucks on town-owned property. That would require development of a permitting system, she said. “It can be done,” she added, but Westernization oversight would not go away.
“Would they look like wagons?” Ranzau wondered.
The council agreed to have the Planning Commission consider the food truck question as soon as possible, and return recommendations to the council.
In other business the council adopted a Memorandum of Understanding with Partners for Rural Washington (PRWA), a consulting organization, to take part in an assessment of Internet coverage and broadband access in the Methow Valley. The Town of Twisp earlier entered a similar agreement. Okanogan County is also a partner to the agreement. The assessment is costing the local governments nothing.
Ranzau said that Mario Villanueva, PWRA executive director, had told her that, beyond the study’s findings, the local government jurisdictions would have to fund any improvements.
Given that the assessment is valley-wide, “What is the need we see in our town?” the mayor asked. She noted that the town itself is well-served by existing providers.
Julie Muyllaert, vice president of the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce, said the availability of reliable, high-capacity Internet service has economic implications for a community where a higher-than-average number of residents work from their homes. “This gives us a complete picture from which we can plan,” she said. “Our work force relies on strong broadband Internet. We can’t assume that what we have now will be adequate.”
O’Driscoll and council member Ben Nelson said they support the assessment. “We are supporting our fellow citizens who need it,” Nelson said.
A community meeting will be held this Wednesday (Oct. 10) at 7 p.m. at the Methow Valley Community Center to discuss the current broadband situation. The meeting is part of an initiative coordinated by TwispWorks to address rural broadband Internet issues in the Methow Valley. TwispWorks has also developed a survey to solicit public feedback.
Villanueva has been working with the Okanogan Public Utility District and local Internet service providers to evaluate the existing infrastructure.
At Wednesday’s community discussion, Villanueva will talk about what he has learned about local Internet services and infrastructure, share information from the survey, and lead a community conversation about residents’ Internet needs.
At the end of the study, PWRA will provide a written report outlining possible next steps, costs and potential funding sources for enhancing broadband service in the Methow Valley.
In other business, the council appointed Mazama resident Molly Starcher to the Planning Commission. The commission’s members are not all required to live within the town limits. Ranzau said Starcher has previous municipal experience in planning-related issues.
Ranzau also reported that the Westernization Design Review Board still is lacking a quorum with only three members. A fourth is need for the board to operate. The Planning Commission is currently handling Westernization processes.
“At some point we’re going to have to figure out what we’re going to do,” Ranzau said. “How are we going to approach this is we can’t find people who want to be on the committee?”
Council member Kirsten Vanderhalf, who along with Nelson is a member of an ad hoc committee the council appointed to review Westernization issues and make recommendations, said the committee’s work is nearly done.
Meanwhile, the mayor said, “We can’t stay in limbo.” Vanderhalf responded that because the Planning Commission is handling Westernization under the existing ordinance, “we are not in limbo. We are following the [Westernization] code.”
O’Driscoll said he is aware of people who are interested. “Maybe now is a better time to approach people,” he said.