Food truck rule is there for a reason
It would be easy to look at the case of Buttercloud's oversized food truck and say the city should waive its rules. It's not that simple.
We're fans of Buttercloud as much as the next person. And we like the growing food-truck vibe downtown. And we're not big fans of arbitrary rules, or ordinances designed solely to block competitors from entering a market.
None of those things are pertinent.
Buttercloud, a successful breakfast and lunch restaurant near Hawthorne Park on Genessee Street, has limited seating and is frequently full. The owners decided to add a food truck to handle the overflow and facilitate takeout orders. They had planned to park the truck on a lot adjacent to the Post Office on South Riverside Avenue.
They apparently neglected to find out what the rules were before they invested $50,000 in a vehicle that is 30 square feet over the maximum size allowed under city code.
In the downtown core, food trucks can be no larger than 128 square feet. Outside the core — where Buttercloud's preferred location is — the limit is 170 square feet. The Buttercloud truck is 200 square feet.
The limits are not arbitrary. They were determined after lengthy deliberations involving downtown restaurant owners, who have a legitimate interest in limiting the ability of a mobile food service business to compete for customers without the overhead of leasing a downtown building.
Perhaps the 170-square-foot limit is too restrictive. But that is not an argument for waiving it for one operator when every other food truck has had to comply.
If it appears the size limit is unnecessarily hindering business opportunities, the city should do a thorough review, compare Medford's ordinance to those in other cities and determine whether a change is justified. But we haven't heard other food truck operators complaining that the code is hampering their business.
We recognize that the game is changing for businesses of all types, including restaurants, with new competitors popping up on computer screens and previously empty parking lots. But the rules of the game exist to help maintain some reasonable boundaries, and those who want to play by different rules should push for that before jumping into the game.