"Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it." --G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Street-vending deferral hurts small business

Food truck in Coquitlam. (Photo by Terry O'Neill)
You might recall reading last week that Council had narrowly voted in favour of some new street-food-vending regulations. Well, since then, Councillor Neal Nicholson changed his mind, with the result that the new regulations—including all calls for expressions of interest—have been put on hold.
And that’s a shame, because the councillors (Nicholson and those who were initially opposed) appear to be worried only about street vendors’ impact on restaurants along Glen and High streets. (And that fine; they're entitled to their opinions, of course.)
However, the result of their reconsideration and deferral is that even the non-controversial cart applications (for locations such as those near Douglas College) are now in limbo until staff can produce a full report on the issue, involving a round of consultation with the Chamber of Commerce. And that’s likely to take two months, says Deputy City Manager John Dumont.
This means that it is highly unlikely that street-vending operators, who wanted to open early in the New Year, will be able to do so. Such a shame! I know of at least one local man who was really looking forward to launching a new career with such an operation. And now that dream will have to be put on hold.

Here’s some background. Of special note is the fact that all of the votes to set up the program in 2012 and 2013 were non-controversial and received the full support of council and that no objections came from restaurants before we passed the bylaw or during the first year of operation. So, here’s the history:
The idea of a street vending program arose in late 2011/early 2012 when Council expressed an interest in having a more formalized program to allow mobile vending on City streets and in City parks and requested that staff report back. 
In May 2012, Council directed staff to publish newspaper ads giving notice of its intentions to adopt the proposed bylaw and an opportunity to provide feedback.  Notification letters were sent to the Chamber of Commerce on June 4, 2012 and to the local Business Improvement Associations. 
As the program implementation required a Zoning Bylaw amendment, there was also a public hearing held in June 2012. 
Staff received no objections from the public or businesses. At that time, the bylaw received fourth and final readings by a unanimous vote of Council.
Staff from various City departments including Engineering, Planning, Parks and Economic Development then underwent a detailed process of identifying and resolving the technical and other issues necessary to select potential sites on City lands.
In Feb. 2013, Council voted in favour of proceeding with a tender of up to 10 mobile vending licences at the identified sites: The High, Glen Drive, Pinetree Way, the parking lot at Adair and Brunette, and the parking lot on Ridgeway behind the Safeway. 
The first Request for Information and Expression of Interest was issued in early 2013 for the Council-approved locations.
In response to the first Request for Expressions of Interest, the City received six proposals and four licences were issued. Staff in Legal/Bylaws did not receive complaints from existing businesses about the program.
It’s also worth noting that, while some of the current naysayers expressed concerns about street vendors unduly competing with adjacent or nearby businesses, this issue is already one of the evaluation and selection criteria listed in the city’s Request for Expressions of Interest.  If there were to be more applicants than licences available for a specific location, staff on the evaluation committee would be able to consider the proponent’s compatibility with existing businesses as one factor in awarding the licences.

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