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Scappoose mayor confirms city may consider food cart pod if regulations and right location can be established

SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - A food cart selling tacos on a commercial lot off Highway 30 in Scappoose was shut down in 2015 because the city didn't have any rules or codes to address mobile kitchens. Now, city leaders say carts could find a home in the city with the right planning and approval from the city council.Scappoose could be the first city in Columbia County to establish a food cart pod.

After turning away a food cart owner in 2015 due to a lack of city codes and regulations for mobile food establishments, Scappoose Mayor Scott Burge confirmed the city is considering allowing food carts.

"Right now, I think city staff is looking into it," Burge said last week. "I think the council is of the position that we'd like to see it done in a way that doesn't undercut existing restaurants."

Burge said if the city decides to pursue amending its code to allow food carts, they'd likely be placed together on a parcel designated for carts.

Burge said he favors the idea of modeling a pod after one in Happy Valley, or something similar to the Portland Mercado, which boasts a row of carts with nearby outdoor seating. The property is one of the most notable and well-kept food cart pods in Portland.

If the food cart development takes off, there would need to be restrooms of some kind, available parking and some of the same features restaurants are required to maintain, like a grease trap, Burge noted.

It's the first talk of food carts the city has entertained since a temporary taco truck was prompted to shut down in February 2015.

At the time, Alonzo Meza, the food truck's owner, set up a truck along Highway 30 in Scappoose. The city gave him a temporary 90-day permit to operate, but he was told he'd have to relocate after the permit expired. The truck drew complaints from nearby businesses who said the portable restroom was an eyesore and the sound of the generator from the mobile kitchen was a nuisance.

Without any rules in place to enforce where or how the truck could operate, the Scappoose City Council opted not to renew the temporary permit.

"We just don't have anything in our code that addresses food carts," Burge said.

The mayor said a few people in the city have indicated a desire to have a food cart pod in Scappoose, if an appropriate area can be identified.

"Nothing's come before the City Council yet," Burge said.

Food carts are often considered a stepping stone for start-up or small kitchen operations that don't have enough capital to lease a commercial space.

In St. Helens, Thai food cart Noi's Thai Kitchen grew from a successful food cart to a full-fledged restaurant in 2017.

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