Town Council OK’s ‘emergency’ request
If Winthrop gets a food truck anytime soon — and that’s still an if — it will be in one location on a temporary basis until proposed changes in the town’s zoning codes take full effect.
At its meeting last week, the Town Council approved an “emergency” request to allow a food truck to park at one location, exempt from the town’s Westernization ordinance, through Oct. 31 on the condition that it be moved every night.
As a practical matter, the emergency action applies to only one potential vendor: The Taco Bahia food truck owned by Dale and Monica Caulfield of Winthrop, who have parked their truck at Mazama the past two summers. In a letter to the town, the Caulfields had asked for the Westernization code exemption “due to the extreme emergency of the upper valley fires.”
“We are looking at operating on private property in Winthrop at Methow Valley Thriftway since our Mazama location is potentially compromised this summer and fall,” they said in the letter.
Mazama and the Goat Creek Road/Lost River Road corridor are currently in level 2 evacuation status, meaning residents should be prepared to leave immediately if necessary. While the Mazama Store remains open on a reduced basis, most other Mazama-area businesses are closed and nearby recreation areas are off limits.
The Caulfields told the council that they are still in talks with the grocery store’s owners about placing the truck in the store’s parking lot.
Also on the council’s agenda last week was a set of proposed revisions to the town’s zoning codes, including a section on mobile food vendors. The recommendations, forwarded to the council by the Winthrop Planning Commission after considerable discussion including a public hearing and staff input, would allow vendors in certain business zones, and on town-owned properties with a permit.
Vendors would be required to get a town business license and pay all applicable taxes, and adhere to county health codes. They would have to be self-contained and could provide outdoor seating for up to 12 people. No drive-up or drive-through options would be allowed.
Monica Caufield told the council that the Bahia truck traveled to nearly 30 venues around the state last year and pays taxes to each jurisdiction where it sets up.
The mobile vendors would be required to “comply with applicable provisions” of the town’s Westernization ordinance, which is intended to maintain the authenticity of Winthrop’s western town motif. Enforcement of the ordinance is the purview of the Westernization Design Review Board, not the Planning Commission.
Food trucks have been a topic of discussion in the past, but the council has not acted to revise the zoning code to allow them.
Council member Joseph O’Driscoll said he was concerned that allowing a mobile vendor on an emergency basis might be hurtful to local restaurants that “are trying so hard and now may face competition.”
Dale Caufield responded that “if we’re there [the Thriftway site], OK, if we’re not there, OK … we’re not trying to take business from anyone else.” He said the Caulfields just want to provide an option.
Ultimately, the council approved the emergency action, but adoption of the zoning code changes that allowed for more permanent locations is still up for consideration.