Nelson residents love summer downtown patios, and they want food trucks but with rules.
That’s one of the take-aways from a public online survey the city conducted this year.
In the spring, in response to the pandemic, council temporarily banned food trucks from downtown to protect brick-and-mortar restaurants, intending to revisit the policy again after conducting the survey. And it waived patio fees and allowed the extension of patios to the front of adjacent businesses.
Planner Alex Thumm presented the survey results to council at its Nov. 23 meeting, saying it had received 1,130 responses.
“That is very good for an online survey,” he said. “It goes to show the level of interest and the enthusiasm around both patios and food trucks in the community.”
• Among the 78 per cent of respondents who said they had visited a patio this summer, the average number of visits was 10.
• 44 per cent said they were satisfied with the patio situation this summer, 36 per cent said there should have been even more patios, and eight per cent said there were too many because they took up too many parking spaces.
• 73 per cent agreed with the policy introduced this year that allowed a restaurants, with the consent of the neighbouring business, to extend their patio to the front of the adjacent business.
To a summary question at the end of the survey’s patios section asking for additional written comments, there were 485 responses.
Food trucks summary
• 42 per cent of respondents thought food trucks should be allowed to locate near similar brick and mortar businesses.
• In a list of locations where food trucks could be allowed in the city, in which respondents could vote for more than one preference, the top vote-getters were Railtown (77 per cent), Lakeside Park by the soccer fields (72 per cent), near Lakeside Park (71 per cent), and the north-south downtown streets (64 per cent).
• 66 per cent said food trucks should have a designated spot and not be allowed to roam.
The “other comments” section for food trucks had 333 responses.
City council’s discussion about the survey results can be viewed on city’s YouTube channel.
Thumm also presented council with a number of staff recommendations, based on the survey, that council will vote on at a future meeting. They include:
• Increase the $260 per month per parking stall fee to $600 per month for food trucks downtown, and $300 for Lakeside and Railtown, plus hydro.
• Minimum 45 metres from a similar business unless there is consent from the similar business.
• Maximum one parking space per vendor (not angle parking).
• Waste diversion plan required.
• Must vacate when not operating.
• Optional mid-season location change.
• No generators in the downtown core.
• Signage plan required.
A cap of six vendors city-wide is also being considered.
The Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce wrote to the city in October stating that it was in favour of the city’s decision in the spring to temporarily ban food trucks to protect struggling brick and mortar businesses.
“As we head through the late fall and into winter,” executive director Tom Thomson wrote, “there is still some trepidation within the restaurant and food and beverage sector. Businesses in Nelson are still attempting to return to year over year profitability.”
Thomson’s letter recommended raising the fees for food vendors, creating clusters of food vendors in areas with few restaurants and suggested Railtown, the NDCC parking lot or Lake Street.
The chamber also suggested food trucks be allowed to operate in conjunction with farmers’ markets.
“In these unprecedented times,” Thomson wrote, “the Chamber of Commerce encourages council to continue to be as flexible and creative in any long-term mobile food vendor policy development.”