Coun. Sally Mole, left and mayor Dianne St. Jacques attended an open house hosted by Scott Stewart on April 15. Stewart is hoping to bring a new food truck to town and held the event to answer questions the community has about the project. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

Ucluelet locals chew on proposed food truck idea

“Communication is so important when it comes to these kinds of changes in a community.”

A proposed food truck in Ucluelet will get top billing at April 25’s council meeting.

“For the first half hour of the meeting, we’re going to listen to people’s comments about the concept that’s being put forward at the [Davison] Plaza,” mayor Dianne St. Jacques told the Westerly News.

As was reported in April 5’s Westerly, Scott Stewart is hoping to launch a new food truck venture on a patch of current vacant green space between Davison Plaza and Larch Road, but the project is taking some heat from the residential neighbourhood across the street.

Larch Road resident Shaun Mills raised concerns about the project during Ucluelet’s April 11 council meeting where he presented a petition signed by eight of his neighbours asking for council to consider the impacts to the neighbourhood.

Mills suggested the food truck would increase traffic to the area, putting area kids at risk and added the site is already a hot spot for illegal campers and transients who are covering the space with garbage and using the nearby corner of the plaza as a bathroom.

After the meeting, the conversation spilled onto social media platforms and the online conversations were amplified enough that Stewart hosted an open house at his Barkley Cafe, also located in the Plaza, to address local concerns on April 15.

“I invited the community because I wanted them to see what my plans were for this space,” Stewart told the Westerly at the event. “I just wanted people to see my vision and to stop the rumours of what they think it’s going to be.”

Information about the project was presented across several poster boards inside the cafe laying out how parking and garbage would be handled and also offering insight into the set up around the truck, which would include added fencing and foliage.

“What I’ve done with this board is to try to answer the questions, which I’m sure I’m going to get about the parking, about the garbage, about the crows, about people urinating,” Stewart said, adding the issues raised by Mills were issues he’s concerned with as well.

“I find garbage bags against my dumpster everyday from campers that come here that defecate and urinate back there. I’ve even caught them doing it…All these issues are my same concerns and I would never make an environment like that.”

He said the setup would be a “gourmet kitchen on wheels” serving “authentic Mexican kitchen in a garden atmosphere.”

“I like beautiful things,” he said. “I’m a decorator by trade and, if I see spaces, I have visions. This is the vision I have for that space and I think it’s a good vision for the community. It will be good for kids and families and it will be wheelchair accessible.”

Stewart has partnered with his longtime friend Dave Carlson who will serve as the food truck’s head chef. Carlson, who operates two mobile kitchens as well as an organic vegetable farm on the mainland, said the truck’s offering will be “really high end [and] really flavourful” and it will operate seasonally; open roughly five months of the year.

Ucluelet local Andrew ‘Tod’ Henry attended the open house to voice his concern over the increased traffic he believes the truck would bring to the neighbourhood. He suggested the Larch-side entrance to the plaza needs to be closed off and all traffic limited to the plaza’s main entrance off Peninsula Road.

“I’m not happy about the traffic that’s going to end up on Larch,” he said adding many children travel along the road on bikes and skateboards on their way to school. “It’s a rural road and, I think, it should be kept as a rural road. My biggest concern is the safety of the kids with the exit/entrance to the plaza.”

Coun. Randy Oliwa also attended and told the Westerly he was there to “listen to what the community would like to see,” and hear any concerns.

“It’s an information gathering session for me and I think we need more of these,” he said of the event. “This is great. They’ve done a great job with the presentation and any public engagement and community events like this that bring the community out to discuss what’s current and what we’d like to see in the future for Ucluelet is a win.”

St. Jacques expressed similar motivations to Oliwa’s suggesting she attended to hear people’s comments, concerns and questions.

“I think they had a great presentation of information. A few people came out; not too many unfortunately, but it is the Saturday night of Easter Weekend,” she said.

She encouraged anyone with questions to attend April 25’s council meeting at 7:30 p.m. and, in the meantime, to reach out to Stewart at the Barkley Cafe.

“Communication is so important when it comes to these kinds of changes in a community,” she said. “People need to know, and like to know, what’s going on.”