People get lunch at the Eat at Joe’s food truck at the Northeast Harbor Marina in a previous year. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Food truck fracas



MOUNT DESERT — The Harbor Committee here is adamantly opposed to a proposal by Public Works Director Tony Smith and Police Chief Jim Willis to relocate the seasonal farmers market and food trucks at the Northeast Harbor Marina.

The farmers market operates for three hours every Thursday morning in the summer on the southeast side of the Veterans Memorial Park, where Harbor Drive intersects with the driveway to the pier area. Smith and Willis have recommended that the market be moved to the parking lot across Harbor Drive from the Popplestone condominiums.

“This will address many vehicle-pedestrian safety issues,” Smith said in a memo to Town Manager Durlin Lunt. “Vendors for the market will be able to park and set up shop along either side of the parking lot, with shoppers being able to walk between them.”

This past summer was the first time food trucks were allowed to operate at the marina. Two food trucks parked on Harbor Drive, which skirts the park, across from the condos. Several condo residents complained about the noise from the trucks’ generators.

To eliminate that problem, Smith and Willis have recommended moving the food trucks to spaces around the circular drive at the marina where Island Explorer buses stop to pick up and drop off passengers.

The Board of Selectmen discussed the farmers market and food truck recommendation at their Nov. 6 meeting.

“I think this is a wonderful plan,” Selectman Martha Dudman said. “I think you’ve answered a lot of concerns from a lot of parties in one fell swoop.”

Board members Wendy Littlefield and John Macauley agreed.

The selectmen decided to postpone a vote on the recommendation until their meeting next Monday, Nov. 20, to give the Harbor Committee a chance to weigh in.

And weigh in they did at their meeting Tuesday afternoon, saying that the plan to use a portion of the parking lot for the farmers market would eliminate much-needed parking spaces on Thursday mornings and that moving the food trucks to the Island Explorer circle would create more congestion and safety hazards.

“We need to go in force to the [selectmen’s] meeting and be listened to, Harbor Committee member Chris Moore said. “We’re the ones who are responsible for everything down there. We work down there and have knowledge of the daily usage, the heavy usage. Those guys [selectmen] aren’t there during the peak part of it.”

Committee Chairman Rick Savage said the space where the farmers market currently sets up should become the permanent location for both the farmers market and food trucks.

“I feel that area ought to be designed for that, including paving and utilities,” he said. “They need to improve that area to be suitable for the [farmers market] trucks, and I think it’s a good spot for the food trucks, too.”

He said that would preserve existing parking spaces in the nearby lot and improve pedestrian safety.

The Harbor Committee voted 8-0 for Savage’s motion to recommend improvement of the farmers market area to accommodate both uses.

Two years ago at town meeting, residents approved a plan to sell up to five food truck permits. The idea was that the trucks would be spread among Northeast Harbor, Seal Harbor and Bartlett’s Landing.

“But Seal Harbor has said they’re not interested, and Bartlett’s is not a place where anyone’s going to make any money,” Harbormaster John Lemoine told the Harbor Committee. “So all five of those [food truck permits] have been thrown at us in Northeast Harbor.”

Committee members said two food trucks at the marina, the number that were there this past summer, are enough. They voted 8-0 for Savage’s motion to recommend that the number of food trucks allowed at the marina be limited to two.

In his memo to Lunt explaining the recommendation to move the food trucks to the Island Explorer circular drive, Smith said, “If the food vendors are to provide their own generator power … as they did this past summer, they can readily pull in and set up shop next year. If we decide to provide them with power, we can extend it underground from the harbormaster’s building to the vendor locations.”

He said an electrical contractor has estimated that could be done for five potential food truck sites for $5,000 to $6,000.

“This amount includes simple meters for measuring the power usage per location throughout the summer,” Smith said.

The vendors would pay for the power they use.

Smith suggested the town could recoup the cost of extending the power supply from the harbormaster’s building to the food trucks by raising the price of mobile vendor permits.

 

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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