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Business owner starts campaign against food trucks in South Bruce Peninsula, but plan has its supporters

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A Sauble Beach business owner wants South Bruce Peninsula to slam the brakes on its plan to allow food trucks to operate in the municipality.

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Tom LaForme, owner of Beachside Take-Out, has posted “Say no to food trucks” signs outside of his Lakeshore Boulevard business.

He’s hoping others will hop on board and join his sign campaign.

“My goal is to stop them,” said LaForme, who also owns Beachside Cottages.

He said his biggest concern is the food trucks will roll into town, hurt bricks-and-mortar businesses during their crucial peak period, and then leave.

“They’re going to spend their money outside of South Bruce Peninsula. They don’t use any of the local contractors – electricians, plumbers, well-drillers, snow removal – that people that live here year round pay to operate their businesses. And this isn’t going to help any new businesses that are going to want to open in Sauble,” he said.

Mayor Janice Jackson said council has decided to take it slow on the food truck proposal, approving it as a pilot, for now, for the summer.

The town will be awarding licences – pending the results of a request for proposals – to allow single trucks to operate from June to September at only six municipally owned sites, including a lone spot at Sauble Beach. The trucks must remain stationary and the food operators will have to pay fees, which the town says will rival the costs borne by permanent businesses.

“We’ve been very careful in crafting the positioning of these food trucks so that we don’t harm any of our current food operators,” she said.

Both the Sauble Beach Residential Property Owners Association and Wiarton & District Chamber of Commerce are supportive of the plan. Jackson said the “majority of the business community” in South Bruce Peninsula is as well.

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A survey by the Sauble Beach Chamber of Commerce garnered a mixed response, with 50.5 per cent of the 87 respondents saying they support the food truck proposal, according to president Adam Mahy.

The town has launched its own online survey, which closes Monday, to determine the level of support from both residents and visitors.

If the trial is successful, council will consider amending its zoning bylaw to permit food trucks and implementing an associated licencing and fees bylaw.

“Right now, council has only approved food trucks for municipal properties. We’ve done that so we can control where they go so that we don’t harm our existing food operators,” Jackson said..

“And if they’re as successful, as I expect them to be, then council will consider creating a bylaw to allow them on private property.”

South Bruce Peninsula council voted March 19 to support the food truck trial and issue an RFP for potential operators.

Jackson, in a Facebook post, said it was her third attempt in eight years to see the proposal approved.

The RFP, which closes Friday, says the plan is intended to supplement the number of and variety of food options in the town.

Trucks will only be permitted at the Sixth Street washrooms in Sauble, Howdenvale Beach, Red Bay Beach, Bluewater Park near the pool, the Hepworth Visitor Centre parking lot and Oliphant Landing.

The successful operators will have to pay a $3,500 licencing fee plus a lease amount, which they must propose in their submission.

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LaForme, who has operated his take-away food business just north of Main Street for 10 years, said the fees the trucks will have to pay will not come close to the amount permanent businesses pay in property taxes or leases and utilities.

He said he’s worried that after the trial is over, food trucks will be permitted elsewhere in Sauble, including the proposed municipal town square near his business.

Frank Chadwick, owner of Main St. Diner in Sauble, said businesses in the tourist town have only 60 “peak” days a year in which they can turn a profit.

“And that’s the 60 days that the food trucks will pick to come here,” he said.

“If food trucks were parked down on the beach all winter, not making any profit like we are all winter, then I’d have no problem with it. But they’re going to come here on the peak times and dig into whatever income that we might have and take their piece of it. And I don’t think that’s right.”

He said he’s upset the town launched the survey after council approved the one-season trial.

But Jackson said that was done because council wanted to see the results of both the RFP and survey at the same time to help with its decision on where the trucks should be located.

She said there are no plans to allow a food truck in the town square and if council decides to permit them on private properties, the operators will still have to follow rules to ensure they are not harming permanent restaurants.

She said “there’s no way” a food truck at the Sixth Street washrooms will impact other Sauble food businesses.

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There are no food businesses on Lakeshore Boulevard from LaForme’s place, just north of Main Street, to the Sauble River, she said, yet “tens of thousands of tourists” spend the day on that stretch of beach during peak periods.

“And those tourists that are on the beach are not going to give up their parking spot on Lakeshore to drive down to Main Street to buy food and then hope that their parking spot is still available when they return,” she said.

The town is asking proponents to suggest a lease fee, she said, so it can receive as much revenue as possible.

Paul Deacon, president of the Wiarton Chamber, said the organization believes it would be a bad idea for the town to continue banning food trucks.

“I don’t feel it’s the municipality’s role to dictate who should and shouldn’t operate a business,” he said.

“The chamber’s position is that we, at this current time, couldn’t service the needs of the volume of tourists that are passing through town with the seats available now in the restaurants in our community. So we’re of the opinion that if we provide more services then maybe we would attract more visitors to the downtown core.”

The Sauble property owner’s group says 150,000 people visited Sauble on the Canada Day long weekend alone in 2018. It doesn’t believe six food trucks in South Bruce Peninsula will threaten any existing businesses.

Council recently received a letter from Terry and Linda Diggle, who live across from the Sixth Street washrooms, that includes concerns about the proposal for a food truck in the washroom parking lot.

“We, and our neighbours, will face two months of noise, congestion, increased traffic, garbage, illegal parking and serious safety and emergency response risks,” the letter says.

The town’s survey can be found at openmicsouthbrucepeninsula.ca/FoodTruck1

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