Food trucks may get a public hearing
Local food truck vendors may be one step closer to hoped-for changes after Sarasota County Commissioners meet on Tuesday, Oct. 27. At that meeting, commissioners will decide whether to authorize a public hearing on changes to ordinances that determine how food trucks operate in the county.
Proposed changes include the removal of language requiring permission from businesses near a vending site. Updated language would also change to the process by which vendors obtain permits, removing the step which currently requires the board to decide whether to require a public hearing for each permit application. Other changes include an expanded list of commercial zones where food trucks can operate, and allowing larger trucks.
Lori Cortellini, who owns Da Vinci’s Coffee and Gelato, said she waited three-and-a-half months to obtain a permit from the county and had to submit an eight-page application, photos of her truck and aerial photos of the site.
The changes would also allow site-specific permits, where the owner of a site can obtain a permit and rotate a variety of vendors.
SRQ Food Truck Alliance, a group of approximately 20 local vendors, has been working with the county to refine restrictions the commission passed in 2011, when it authorized food trucks to operate in unincorporated areas under Temporary Use Permits.
Currently, vendors must get notarized consent from owners of restaurants within 800 feet of a proposed site and can’t operate with 750 feet of one another. Those restrictions spurred conversations between vendors and the county after similar regulations were challenged as unconstitutional in other parts of the United States.
Cortellini said there isn’t much overlap in customers between restaurants and food trucks.
“It’s a healthy competition, just like any other business,” she said. “Where you eat just depends on what you want.”
Commissioner Paul Caragiulo said he supports changes that prevent government from protecting certain businesses over others.
“I think competition is healthy,” Caragiulo said. “We can figure out a way for everybody to coexist nicely.”
Commissioners evaluate attorney, administrator
Commissioners will review annual performance applications for the county administrator, Tom Harmer, and county attorney, Stephen DeMarsh, at Wednesday's meeting.
While DeMarsh received only high marks, all "excellent" or "above average," Harmer's evaluation showed room for improvement, at least from some commissioners. Criticisms were focused on Harmer's holding his subordinates accountable.
Commissioner Paul Caragiulo gave Harmer high marks, but also said, "Not necessarily an issue of 'improvement,' but Tom has 'inherited' much of his management team ... I have confidence in (Harmer); I want to know if he has confidence in his team."
Commissioner Robinson also rated Harmer "excellent" or "above average," but recommended improvement, writing that Harmer often had to intervene to put projects back on track.
"Expectations need to be met by the (assistant county administrators) and directors to allow you to spend more time on high-level planning and less time managing or intervening on projects," Robinson wrote to Harmer in her evaluation.
Commissioner Charles Hines suggested Harmer improve his management performance, "...to hold those not meeting expectations accountable and if not corrected explain to them that it's time to move on to another field of employment."