Scott Stewart’s plan to put a food truck on a currently empty green space adjacent to Davison Plaza took a heavy blow on Tuesday night as Ucluelet’s municipal council voted 3-2 to deny his application.
Councillors Mayco Noel and Randy Oliwa joined mayor Dianne St. Jacques to oppose the project while councillors Marilyn McEwen and Sally Mole voted in favour.
The food truck has been a heavily debated topic since it first came before council on March 28 with Larch Road residents raising concerns about the proximity of the truck to their neighbourhood and the impact it would have in terms of traffic congestion and safety.
Stewart held an open house on April 15 to address the concerns that had been raised, but that seemingly did little to sway his proposal’s detractors as several of them spoke against the project again at April 25’s council meeting immediately before council made their decision.
Noel was the first to voice his opinion to the meeting’s packed attendance and said mobile vending has room to grow in the community, but not at the spot Stewart was proposing.
“I think everyone in the room can pick out locations that would work,” he said adding his concerns about the site centred around traffic flow.
He said the idea of closing a current laneway between the Plaza and Larch Road was “nerve wracking” because it would push all the plaza’s traffic onto Peninsula and added that Larch is already congested.
“If you drive down that street, which I did tonight, there’s a lot of pickup trucks on the side of the road. It’s congested. They’re small properties and everybody already has two or three pickup trucks and trying to fit them in their driveway is virtually impossible,” he said.
Mayor Dianne St. Jacques shared Noel’s concerns about closing the laneway.
“I don’t feel we’ve had enough public input on that. I know just from people hearing about it there’s pros and cons to both as there always is and some folks are concerned that they won’t be able to access the post office,” she said.
She added she’d attended Stewart’s open house and been concerned to learn the scope of the project, which would include a commercial kitchen and liquor licence.
“It just seems like a lot more than a mobile vendor to me,” she said.
Coun. Sally Mole noted the property is zoned commercial, meaning mobile vending is an allowed use and that council’s only power was to decide whether Stewart’s proposed design fit in with the neighbourhood.
“I don’t think we have any real say in that as it stands at this point,” she said. “I would like to thank everyone for coming out to voice their opinions. It’s not an easy decision, I think, that’s in front of us, but we are limited to basing our decision on form and character and I see good form and character in this proposal.”
She said parking did not raise any red flags for her as the restaurant would operate at night when many of the Davison Plaza businesses would be closed.
She added she’d also attended April 15’s open house and was impressed by the proposal.
“I did like what I saw. I thought it was attractive,” she said.
Coun. Marilyn McEwen noted two petitions regarding the food truck proposal had circulated throughout town with one for support receiving 156 signatures and one for opposition receiving 154.
“Clearly the community is divided on this issue and that makes it difficult for us to come to a conclusion as well because there’s pros and cons for both,” she said.
Mole noted at least one local had signed both petitions.
Coun. Randy Oliwa confirmed Mole’s point that a food truck is currently an allowable use on the site, but suggested Ucluelet’s Official Community Plan gives council the right to protect neighbourhoods.
“Unfortunately, we do have a weak bylaw that we’re planning on reviewing, so Coun. Mole is correct with her statement on the current existing conformity,” he said. “Much like the accommodation industry, we do have an opportunity to keep our own community distinct and real…As much as everybody else, I would like to see the development of food trucks. I don’t see it as a fit with the current application that’s been presented.”
Stewart declined to provide a comment to the Westerly News immediately after council’s decision.