Trustees considering (but not encouraging) food trucks
By Joshua Maloni
Trustees in the Village of Lewiston revisited the idea of permitting food trucks to operate on municipal streets.
"This is something that has come before the Village Board this past year, and, as we had talked about at that time, we were going to look at it over the winter months," Mayor Terry Collesano said at Monday's work session.
He pointed to applications used in the City of Buffalo and Town of Amherst as possible guides for the Village of Lewiston.
"This is the start of something that possibly we can look into," Collesano said.
In January 2014, The Great Foodini owner Michael Attardo requested a facility service contract to operate from 11 p.m. until 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays on Center Street. Prior to that, in May 2013, Christian Willmott approached trustees about bringing The Black Market Food Truck to the village.
Upon receiving unfavorable comments from local leaders and restaurant operators, Village Board members emphatically opposed food trucks coming in and taking profits away from brick-and-mortar restaurants.
At this week's meeting, Trustee Vic Eydt questioned why the subject was revisited.
"I thought we had talked about that and we weren't going to allow the food trucks?" he asked. "I don't know why we're even bringing this up."
Collesano replied, "I thought that, legally, we couldn't ban it altogether."
Village counsel Joseph Leone said, "That's my understanding.
"I got some notes from when Ed Jesella was the attorney. He apparently looked at this. ... I do see that there is at least one community that has a local law on the subject. I've got a copy of that local law. If you like, I can take a look at that, and maybe draft something up for the board to consider.
"As to outlawing it entirely, I don't necessarily know that that is an option at that point."
He added, "The other issue, of course, is you've got food trucks coming in, and you have existing businesses here that are paying taxes and that are employing people and so forth. I understand the complexity of the issue."
"That's what came up the last time," Collesano said. "Brick-and-mortar businesses that are paying taxes versus somebody who comes in from most likely out of town, and making a living at our expense - or at the expense of our brick-and-mortar establishments.
"That's why we wanted our counsel to look at it and then come up with recommendations.
"I think the one that looks the most accurate here for us would be the City of Buffalo. It covers so many different areas. We could probably tweak it a little bit ourselves, but it's already there."
Buffalo's permit specifies how close a truck can be to an eatery (at least 100 feet away). It also states operators must have a fire inspection and carry trash receptacles
The applicant is charged $800 for the first year and $500 annually thereafter.
Food trucks in Buffalo cannot operate on private property or within 500 feet of sanctioned special events.
Amherst charges $400 for a truck, and specifies hours of operation.
Leone likened food trucks to the ice cream man, who goes neighborhood to neighborhood selling treats in the summer, but said there's one big difference.
"If you have a food truck come in, it's going to park on a piece of property somewhere. That might be another issue entirely, as to whether or not that sort of thing is allowed," he said. "You take that, and then, of course, you look at the festivals, and you have nothing but transient trucks that are there. But they're there for a day or two or whatever it might be.
"It's certainly a complex issue."
Eydt said, "The issue that I have is, you're going to have them at the festivals. So, whatever we do, there's going to have to be some leeway; some guidance. I think coming up with (regulations) and reviewing them would probably be a good idea.
"We can't turn off the festivals, because you've got a few people that come down here, they're religious; they've been coming down for years and years. But to set up, just to pull up and say, 'Oh, I want a permit, and I want to be here Monday through Friday,' No. I don't like that idea at all."
"With the weather breaking soon, we're most likely going to get hit up with requests again," Collesano said. "Right now, we have nothing in place. That's why, I think, we should look at it very closely. And, if we have to do it, then let's do it where we're protecting ourself and the village."
Project process confusion
Onondaga Street resident Rich Donaldson asked about the approval process for the Ellicott Development plaza and Fairchild apartment complex projects.
"If somebody could just tell me where they stand. I'm seeing it was brought to the (Village) Board for approval in principle a couple weeks ago, which was never mentioned at any of the Planning Board meetings I attended," he said.
"Where do we stand?" Donaldson asked. "It seems like there's discordance somewhere. If you could just tell me where it stands; if there's an orderly process to carry this on through?"
Planning Board member Claudia Marasco was in attendance. Collesano asked her to explain.
"We did not put it on the agenda to go to the (Village) Board to vote on," she said. "But it appeared on the agenda. I think that may have been part of the (confusion). We weren't sure why it was going (there) already, because we were still working on the first submission. I'm not sure that there was anything that you could really vote on, because there are so many things. It's such a complicated issue.
"It's like an onion. You're peeling and repeeling and another layer and another layer."
Marasco stressed, "It is not a done deal. ... We're going to keep working on it. I really like when the public comes to the meetings and they ask questions. I know that you (Donaldson) have. We're going to get through this - some way, somehow."
Donaldson said, "It just seems like the issues of the variances are being lowballed. These are not minor issues. These are quite major issues. Especially impacting people of the surrounding neighborhoods."
"To read things and hear things, it sounds like it's just a matter of time," he added. "It's a little disturbing."
"As you can see, the Planning Board is taking its time, because they're scrutinizing every little thing," Collesano said. "We don't want this to be rushed into. It takes a lot of time, and people just have to realize that - that they're doing their job."
Marasco said, "We have not taken any vote other than the first submission."
Village Engineer Mike Marino said, "The key language there is the 'approval in principle' of the project. The last couple years, I think, were more informal hearings to help them (the developers) scope a project. And then that first submission that we had ... that was an actual formal first submission by the code. You know, 'Here's our concepts.' "
The Planning Board is not expecting either project developer - William Paladino for the plaza, James Jerge for the apartments - to attend this Monday's monthly meeting.
Village considering new water meters
The board watched a PowerPoint presentation on new water meter technology from Scott Little of Lockport's Lock City Supply Inc. Trustees are looking into grants to replace aging water meters.
Village of Lewiston Department of Public Works Superintendent Terry Brolinski said, "Very shortly they're going to have to be (changed). They were only a 10-year lifespan when we put them in. We're working on 14 years. They're starting to slow down, some of them."
"I've got enough, right now, to keep replacing them, as they go," he added. "So, when we do find a bad one, we replace the head and that keeps it going for a little while longer."
The last time the DPW did a village-wide replacement, "I want to say it took us almost six months to do the whole village," Brolinski said.
Today, "There's over 1,200 meters," he noted.
Little pitched Badger meters, which come with a 20-year battery and a digital app residents (and the DPW) can use to monitor usage. He said 11 million endpoints have already been distributed, with less than one-half of 1 percent returned.
Village of Lewiston Deputy Treasurer Edward Walker asked Little for price packages.
If and when the village opts to replace water meters, Brolinski said residents would call for an appointment.
"We do it at their leisure; when they're home," he said. Brolinski explained the DPW could change a meter in less than eight minutes. "We're in, we're out. We don't make too much of a mess. If we do, we clean it up."
Lewiston receives positive financial review
Walker told trustees the municipality received good news from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
"At the end of February, we received our scores ... on financial stress and environmental stress, as it relates to financial readiness, based on a program of financial stress monitoring that was started by the comptroller's office in 2013," Walker said. "This is the third year that they have published these results."
He explained the lower the number, the better.
"For 2015, our financial stress was rated at 3.3 percent. And our environmental stress was rated at 18.3 percent," Walker said. "Just to give you some kind of an idea where those numbers fall in relation: The state doesn't even look at anybody, to do any sort of intervention, unless they're over 45 percent - stress numbers."
Walker said the village submits its year-end budget and all financial details discovered through audits.
"They use those numbers to calculate where our stress numbers are," Walker said.
He noted the village's numbers in 2013 were 12.5 percent financial and 21.7 percent environmental.
"I think it indicates that our board and our department heads are doing their job, and watching out for where things are going financially in the village," Walker said.