Trustees will consider allowing food trucks - in six months
by Joshua Maloni
Starting Tuesday, the Village of Lewiston will start enforcing its law concerning so-called "pop-up" businesses on residential and municipal property. Trustees will especially crack down on homeowners on South Fourth Street who charge for parking on Artpark concert nights.
"Pop-up" food vending and ticket scalping will not be allowed, either. At Monday's Village Board meeting, trustees voted 4-0 to prohibit such business ventures (Vic Eydt was excused).
"I think we all agree that now is the time to do something," Mayor Terry Collesano said.
A handful of neighbors implored the board to take action.
Seneca Street resident and Center Street business owner Bob Giannetti said, "These parking lots apparently operate without business licenses or payment of sales taxes."
He said the village's lack of prior enforcement was "aiding and abetting illegal business activity." He suggested the "pop-up" businesses were hurting property values.
Anthony Girasole, a Seneca and South Fourth street resident with more than 50 years of real estate appraisal experience, estimated the lawn and sidewalk parking lots and ancillary food sales had lowered property value assessments by 20 percent.
"I feel bad for you people living down there," Trustee Nick Conde said.
"There's no reason for that," Trustee Dan Gibson added.
Village Attorney Ed Jesella said these "pop-ups" are "totally illegal," a "complete violation of zoning ordinances" and "there's no question they should be banned."
Lewiston Police Department Sgt. Frank Previte said a few of Artpark's neighbors had "tested the waters" at the start of the summer concert season. With each passing week, more and more "pop-up" lots appeared. Previte said there have been upward of 300 cars parked on lawns, sidewalks and other areas, further congesting the street before and after events.
He said the LPD has worked hard to efficiently move traffic in and out of Lewiston on concert nights. Previte said the "pop-up" lots have hindered the LPD's progress.
Jesella stressed, "They just shouldn't be there."
"I think the only answer is you shut it down," he told the board.
The South Fourth Street area by Artpark is zoned R-1-A, or residential single family. Front yard parking, paid or otherwise, is not permitted in this district.
Moreover, South Fourth Street has a 99-foot right-of-way. This means that, for many residents, their lawn is not technically their lawn. It belongs to the village. Thus, the residents opening "pop-up" businesses were making money parking cars and selling hot dogs and hamburgers on property they did not own.
Jesella said lots permitted in business districts must adhere to size regulations, and have proper paving, lighting and insurance.
Collesano said the Village Board felt bad for neighbors three years ago when Artpark was attracting 20,000 or more concertgoers many summer Tuesday nights, and didn't enforce the "no parking" law as stringently.
Artpark & Company converted its free concert series into ticketed events in 2012, limited crowds to 10,000, and reduced on-site parking fees. As such, Collesano said there's now no reason for the "pop-up" parking lots.
The Village Board plans to contact residents in the South Fourth Street area Tuesday and inform them the days of residential parking lots and food vending are over.
Food Truck update
Jesella has been looking into the practicality of allowing food trucks to operate in the village. He suggested the board put a six-month moratorium on food trucks in order to craft a law allowing the portable eateries to operate within the village. Jesella said trustees could determine how many food trucks would be allowed, what hours they would operate, where they would be located, and what they would pay in terms of a permit fee.
Several village restaurateurs have come out in opposition of food trucks. For this reason, trustees initially disallowed them, save an occasional event or private usage.
But Jesella said he's looked at food truck policies in other municipalities and has found research suggesting food trucks can help "brick and mortar" restaurants by attracting more eaters to a particular area.
"I think that everyone can get along," he said.
Ultimately, "There's just no way of saying we're prohibiting food trucks," Jesella said. He suggested some food truck owner would ultimately take legal action against the village, and that such a court battle wouldn't be worth taxpayer money.