By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Carlton looking at food cart rules

CARLTON -- About two dozen residents attended the Carlton City Council’s Tuesday night work session, a type of meeting that usually draws few members of the public. Many were there to support Henry’s Diner, which they worried was being targeted by the city’s discussion of rules governing food carts.

That’s not the case, said City Manager Chad Olsen and Mayor Kathie Oriet. They said the city has no desire to run off the popular diner, which serves breakfasts, lunches and Monday dinners from a turquoise trailer in the center of town.

They announced that the Carlton Planning Commission has scheduled a public comment period about the food cart issue at its July meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 7. Comments also can be made in writing prior to that date to Carlton City Hall.

Joseph Zumpano, owner of Henry’s Diner, said he’s looking forward to the July 7 meeting.

“I certainly support sensible laws focusing on health and safety,” Zumpano said. “I look forward to being part of the process of helping to shape laws that are sensible.”

When Henry’s opened last year, Olsen said he and members of the planning commission decided they needed to look at rules about all sorts of non-brick-and-mortar food businesses -- from longterm food carts to vendors who set up for a few days.

Since Carlton had no such regulations, they asked City Planner Suzanne Dufner to review how other cities deal with such businesses and draw up a draft set of rules.

The planning commission and council have discussed temporary food businesses several times since then. They looked at a draft based on rules used in Hermiston, but rejected that plan because it would have been too restrictive, for instance, limiting food carts to one day in a spot.

Dufner presented an update on her work and outlined a less restrictive proposal Tuesday night. Council member Ginger Williams said she was pleased to see the revisions, although she still questions some things, such as limiting hours of operation to between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

“I want to make sure we’re not singling these businesses out and burdening them with regulations that aren’t about health and safety,” Williams said.

The council directed Dufner to continue exploring the way other cities handle food carts.

Some cities have few rules — McMinnville, for instance, requires only that they be sited on paved parking areas -- while some places have many limits such as length of stay and how long a cart must vacate one spot before returning.

Council member Brian Rake noted that several Oregon cities have recently have increased the length of time a cart can remain in one place. Beaverton, for example, eased its very restrictive seven-hour limit.

Zum pano said he felt good about what he heard at the work session, especially council members’ recognition that some cities have no rules governing food carts and that others are easing their restrictions. He also was heartened by the community support for his business.

He didn’t like his diner being characterized as a “temporary” business, however. “My business is on wheels, but it’s not mobile; it’s a permanent fixture,” he said.

He also stressed that he took the ti me to get necessary permits, such as food health and fire inspections, to ensure the health and safety of his business and customers. In more than a year of serving food, he’s never had a problem, he said.

At this point, neither the council nor the planning commission have agreed on rules for food carts. “We have not reached consensus on anything,” noted Mark Miller, chair of the planning group, who was in the audience.

Before it adopts any proposed regulations, the planning commission will need to hold an official public hearing. Next, its proposal will go to the city council, which also will hold a public hearing before making anything official.

For more information, call Carlton City Hall, at 503-852-7575.

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