Fernie City Council heard from the business community on July 13 at the Committee of the Whole meeting. The Fernie Chamber of Commerce presented results from a survey of the local food and beverage industry. Over 30 businesses were invited to participate in a survey that was completed by 23 businesses ranging from fast food to fine dining to mobile vending. The results were presented to the city as resources for the upcoming mobile food vending bylaw and policy review that is outlined in the city’s operational plan for 2016.
The Fernie Chamber of Commerce is working closely with the city to ensure that the business environment supports all business models in the community. A recent open discussion was hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and representatives from Castlegar and Lethbridge presented on the mobile vending topic. Two key points were shared by both municipalities. First, definitions are key. Whether talking about distance or types of businesses, the guidelines need to be clear and easy to interpret. Second, all parties need to come on board quickly once parameters or policies are set. Since implementation in 2014, Castlegar has received zero complaints about the policy or about the location of mobile food vendors.
The Fernie Chamber of Commerce and business community is looking to city council to add some definition and clarity to the existing Bylaw No. 2028. Schedule B, Item 4.
The bylaw reads, “Mobile or street vendors shall be permitted only at locations whereby their product does not compete with licensed businesses operating from a fixed premise.”
The current wording is ambiguous and allows for multiple interpretations of the bylaw which make it difficult for mobile businesses to understand where they can and cannot park.
Fernie Chamber of Commerce Board President, Sheila Byers stated, “The business community has expressed a frustration with the lack of definition in the current bylaw. Businesses are asking what definitions are used to determine competing products. If you do determine products are in competition, there are no clear guidelines for where a mobile vendor could set up in relation to businesses offering that product.”
At the July 13 city council meeting, council directed staff to prepare policy recommendations on a food pod system in the public space at Station Square. Council’s discussion continued on how the infrastructure in that area could be designed to support food trucks in that area. This would include the proposed public washrooms, and more garbage receptacles.
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Patty Vadnais said after the council meeting, “The Chamber of Commerce looks forward to the direction set by council to support a food pod system in Station Square,” adding, “this will keep the vibrancy of food trucks in the downtown core while supporting the fixed premise restaurants.”