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City councilors, staff still fine tuning regulations that would allow for food trucks to operate in city year-round

Scappoose is inching closer to regulations that would allow for food trucks and food cart pods.

During a Monday evening work session on Sept. 17, Scappoose city councilors reviewed a draft ordinance that would finally allow for mobile food carts to operate in the city.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Veronika Ortega, co-owner of Mira Ve, a Colombian food truck temporarily operating in Scappoose, says her truck will likely move to St. Helens soon. Scappoose does not yet allow for food trucks to operate year-round.  For years, the city has seen small farm stands and even a few food carts come and go, but the mobile food retailers are not allowed to operate in city limits for more than 90 days under the city's current regulations.

City staff and councilors are working to craft rules that would allow food trucks, like the ones that have become a major feature in the city of Portland, but they're not there yet.

The owners of Mira Ve, a Colombian-inspired food truck parked along Highway 30 in Scappoose, say the city won't have rules adopted before their temporary permit runs out, so they plan to relocate their truck to St. Helens.

"People need more variety for food options here," says Veronika Ortega, co-owner of Mira Ve.

Scappoose is borrowing heavily from a food cart ordinance used by the city of Happy Valley.

So far, Scappoose city staff have identified two types of permits for food carts, depending on where they are located and whether they operate as standalone carts, or part of a bundle of carts in a food pod.

"The main concerns involved parking, utilities and sanitation," City Planner Laurie Oliver said Monday, noting city staff and planners have also tried to narrow down appropriate areas of the city for prospective food cart pods.

"It would make sense to allow them as an outright permitted use in any of the zones that allow eating and drinking establishments," Oliver added.

Carts could also be cited in other areas around the city with a conditional use permit, at the approval of the city's planning commission.

During prior discussions about codes for food carts, Mayor Scott Burge noted he wanted to see the city craft regulations that made it fair to new carts and existing restaurants, which are subject to far more regulations and development standards.

Sanitation was a sticking point for councilors during Monday's work session. Per Oregon Health Authority rules, any employee of a business that prepares food must have access to soap and hot running water for hand washing. Councilors said portable bathrooms don't provide that, and neither do most portable hand washing stations.

"One of the complaints that came in when we had the [temporary] carts was that people were just running in and using neighboring business's bathrooms," Burge noted.

Burge questioned whether pod owners should be required to build bathrooms on site.

"That could be a deterrent to actually getting this," Oliver noted.

Councilors agreed it would suffice if cart employees could get access to a nearby bathroom for sanitation.

As drafted, food carts would be allowed in zones where restaurants are permitted, and could be cited out near the airport, giving way to future amenities for a new Portland Community College building expected to break ground in the next few years.

The council is expected to continue discussions and final approval of new codes for mobile food pods is expected sometime in early 2019.

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