MOUNT DESERT — Strong opposition to having food trucks at the waterfront in Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor was expressed by several people at the board of selectmen’s meeting Tuesday night.
An ordinance that would allow mobile food vending in town parking lots in the shoreland commercial zoning district will be voted on at the May 5 open-floor town meeting.
Six locations where food trucks would be allowed to do business have tentatively been identified. They include three sites at the Northeast Harbor Marina and one each at the Seal Harbor beach parking lot, Seal Harbor town pier and Bartlett’s Landing.
“This isn’t going to help Northeast Harbor whatsoever,” Teresa Clark, owner of the Docksider restaurant on Sea Street, told selectmen.
“I would hate to think I’m owning one of these multi-million-dollar yachts and coming to Northeast Harbor and have to smell and see a sea of food trucks there waiting for me. I’m going to feel like I’ve just come into a carnival.”
Selectman Martha Dudman said she and others who support mobile food vending see it as a way to attract more people to town. But Clark argued that it won’t have that effect and is more likely to cause her to go bankrupt.
“When I see you on the street, I can say, ‘Thank you. I no longer own my business.’”
Under the proposed ordinance, mobile food vendors would have to apply for a license from the town. No more than five licenses for the entire town could be in effect at any one time. Selectman Matt Hart said licenses would come with a lot of restrictions.
“I don’t think it’s anyone’s intention to hurt anyone’s business,” he said. “The intention is to grow the pie for everyone, and this is one effort.”
Clark asked the selectmen what they would like the food trucks to sell.
“What are you hoping to see? A taco truck? A margarita truck? Because I can cook you whatever you like. You tell me what it is you want, and I’ll have it for you.”
Also speaking against the idea of mobile vending was Judith Swett, owner of the Lighthouse Inn and Restaurant in Seal Harbor.
“We put a lot of money into our businesses, and we pay a lot of taxes and water bills and everything, and a food truck doesn’t have to pay that kind of thing,” she said.
Swett’s daughter, Kate Conley, who is taking over operation of the Lighthouse, addressed the effect of food trucks on Northeast Harbor. Referring to plans for new commercial developments on Main Street, Conley said, “They’re making it into a very upper-end town. It’s not some low-class food cart industry, and neither is Seal Harbor.”
Seal Harbor resident Anne Funderburk noted that the Lighthouse and the adjacent coffee shop and pizzeria are half of the businesses in Seal Harbor.
“They depend heavily on summer traffic in order to survive,” she said. “I feel it would not be helpful to the village of Seal Harbor to have a third food vending concern involved.”
She also noted that there is not nearly enough parking at the Seal Harbor beach in the summer, and reserving a couple of spaces for a food truck would only make the situation worse.
Chris Moore said he and other members of the town’s marine management committee have misgivings about allowing food trucks in the parking lot at the Northeast Harbor Marina.
“We had concerns about adding any more congestion down there, making it more dangerous,” he said.
Under the proposed ordinance, the selectmen would set the license fee for mobile food vendors each year. Licenses would be good for one year. Applications would be due by April 1.
“If the number of applications exceeds the available locations, vendors will be selected via an annual lottery based on vendor’s preferred location for the season and order of selection,” according to the proposed ordinance. The lottery would be held the last week of April each year.
If all five of the available vending licenses have not been issued by May 15, then additional applications would be considered on a first-come, first-served basis.
Food vendors would not be allowed to provide tables, chairs, benches or stand-up counters for their customers. Vending could occur only between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Food sales conducted by charitable, philanthropic or educational organizations would be exempt from the mobile food vending regulations. However, those organizations still would need the approval of the board of selectmen. Such sales could last no more than two days.