Mobile food vendors who set up shop in the evenings in downtown Kent are going to lose their prime spots starting in 2013.
Kent City Council voted this week to relocate the designated locations for vendors with the category A license from five spots spread throughout downtown to one location on Franklin Avenue beneath the Haymaker Parkway overpass.
Kent Law Director Jim Silver said city officials started to consider relocating the category A vendors after problems with towing cars from designated vending spots, such as the space near the intersection of Main and Water streets in the middle of downtown.
"Issues began as soon as we actually had vendors start setting up downtown," Silver said. "Vendors would show, the parking spaces designated with a sign and paint were occupied, and we would have to tow vehicles from downtown. We don’t like towing cars … so that was a problem."
Council also voted to amend its street vending program to allow up to five designated spaces, but city officials plan to only issue three category A licenses for 2013.
The program started in January 2011 in an attempt to regulate the food vendors, who had started to compete for prime spaces outside Kent's bars.
The new location is in the space on the western side of Franklin Avenue, directly beneath the bridge, in an area that is not currently designated as parking spaces. Vendors' windows would face west to keep lines from forming in the street.
Kent City Manager Dave Ruller said one issue with the program has been with vendors occupying parking downtown in high-demand areas.
"Now we have all these restaurants and new eating establishments as well as the existing ones, (and) the desire to see the street vending may be less in terms of the prime locations when we started all this," he said. "We're pretty much moving them off that front and center stage and putting them on a side stage."
Councilman Garret Ferrara said he liked the idea of creating a cluster spot for the vendors.
"I think it’s a worthwhile endeavor to try," he said.
But Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer said she was somewhat concerned about the effect the location might have on the Haymaker Farmers Market, which sets up beneath the bridge during the warmer months.
"The Haymaker Farmers Market shouldn't have to clean up after a bunch of vendors," she said. "I have a strong loyalty to the bricks and mortar businesses. I don’t want to put anybody out of business that has been a vendor in Kent. So that’s my struggle. If it disturbs the neighborhood and affects bricks and mortar businesses, I will certainly want to take another look at this."