The Turlock Planning Commission approved to refer a food truck ban to the Turlock City Council following a vote on Thursday night.
The Planning Commission was voting to recommend Council ban food trucks in areas of Downtown Turlock.
After a split 3-3 decision, the Planning Commission did not approve the motion to recommend the ban to Council.
Commissioners Victor Pedroza, Jeff Hillberg, and Nick Hackler voted against the ban. Commission Chair Soraya Fregosi, with Commissioners Steve Hallam and Commission Alternate Ashour Badal voted to approve the ban, causing the split vote.
Commissioner Eric Gonsalves recused himself from the item, citing that he made public comment on the issue at a previous meeting.
However after discussion amongst staff, it was recommended the commission move the motion forward, as not to stall the item.
Following staff’s recommendation, Planning Commission approved a motion on a 6-0 vote to recommend the decision to Council at a later time.
City Council will now vote on the food truck ban at a later date, with the ban being approved on a majority vote.
If approved by Council, food trucks would be banned in three Downtown Overlay Districts — the Downtown Core, Downtown Core Transition, and Office-Residential districts. Food trucks would still be allowed in some areas surrounding Downtown’s core.
Pedroza argued that food trucks were important to Downtown and provide a unique service.
“In my opinion, that's something that we need to continue,” said Pedroza. “Food truck vendors provide a service that other businesses don’t."
The Downtown areas chosen for the ban are intended to keep a pedestrian feel Downtown, rather than commercializing it too much. Hallam believed the ban kept Downtown as a “renaissance.”
"I think we should really be proud of Downtown,” said Hallam. “It’s like a renaissance in Downtown and part of that is the pedestrian nature that staff pointed out."
Fregosi agreed with Hallam, stating that she supported food vendors, but simply not in the proposed areas of the ban. Fregosi had voted in favor of not prohibiting food trucks from Downtown Turlock at the original vote.
The ban would however not ban vendors ability to receive a conditional use permit for a private parcel to have food trucks, similar to the area of the taco trucks on East Avenue, even within Downtown Turlock. The permit would require approval by the Planning Commission, however.
At this time, there are no food vendors currently operating in the areas in question, according to Deputy Director of Development Services Debbie Whitmore, most likely due to the previous moratoriums issued by the City of Turlock.
“I would say the moratorium probably has had a chilling effect on people asking to apply within the City,” said Whitmore, adding that the City recently received a new application for a food truck.
Hackler, who previously voted to support the ban at the original Planning Commission vote, believes a ban would hurt future business.
“I just have to say, from a business standpoint, you always have to start somewhere,” said Hackler. “And when we ban people from a certain area of our city, we’re sending a strong message that we’re not that business friendly in that certain area."
This was the second time Planning Commission was voting on the controversial food truck ban in Downtown’s core — last time narrowly approving the ban 4-3.
The item was sent back through Planning Commission out of an “abundance of caution,” according to City Attorney Phaedra Norton.
At the Jan. 13 City Council meeting, Mayor Gary Soiseth said the vote would be delayed due to a “potential defect in the process.” The potential defect has not been released by Council or staff.
Along with referring the food truck ban, Planning Commission also unanimously recommended City Council repeal and replace the Zoning Ordinance in its entirety.
Previously, the food truck ban was detailed inside of the new zoning ordinance, however Planning Commission took the two items separately.
The zoning ordinance was largely uncontroversial when Planning Commission originally saw the item, with most disagreement coming on the food truck ban. Once again, the zoning ordinance was largely uncontroversial.