Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Food Carts dominate citizen comment period

At their May 16 meeting, the Salida City Council (SCC) heard citizen comment on whether or not to amend Resolution 2023-23, passed at their regular meeting on May 2, authorizing the F Street Pedestrian Plaza for this summer, to allow “small plate” food carts to operate on the street.

At the May 2 meeting, the SCC concluded that a few food carts might make for a livelier atmosphere on the Plaza as well as provide more food choices for visitors and business opportunities for young entrepreneurs. However, the SCC also wanted to allow some time for existing business owners on F Street to weigh in with their opinions – and several of them did so last evening.

Brandon Blake, one of the owners of Corvus Clothing and Curiosities at 132 F Street, was generally in favor of using open street parking spaces to showcase more diverse food and other merchandise or service vendors.

“The winter months are hard [for downtown merchants]. The biggest worry for some of us on F Street is that we have a great opportunity to attract more people [in the summer],” he said. “It’s about not letting the F Street Plaza idea become stagnant, and making it a much more memorable experience for those who live here and who visit.”

Hand held Korean Street Food as offered in Reno, NV. Courtesy photo

Rosella Lusk, another F Street business owner, was also in favor: “Commerce attracts commerce and we all rise together,” she said. “I support small businesses. Adding food carts downtown would help with the fact that some restaurants have 2-hour waits and some people don’t stick around. I compete with other small “makers markets” that pop up and I don’t feel threatened.”

“What can we do to bring more people downtown to visit more businesses? Make it a nice environment and make it nice to walk around the whole of downtown, not just on F Street. We can all rise together. [Yes] we do have to work out parking and rents and fees [for food cart operations].”

Parking and planning ahead

The connection between [the given fact of] fewer parking spots on the F Street Plaza in the summer and putting a few food carts in those already open spaces was not clearly stated by those in opposition. However, a perceived shortage of convenient parking in the core of downtown is one of the issues that keeps coming up during the peak season.

While free parking is available on West First Street (at least through the city lease period ending Dec. 31, 2023) as well as at the F Street bridge turnaround, future availability of this much space is uncertain.

Ray Kitson, owner of The Boathouse Cantina and related businesses at 228 North F Street, cited parking in his objection to the food cart idea. Saying that he represented five other eateries besides the Boathouse, Kitson said: “I don’t care about the closure, so long as it’s fair…but now we’re losing 60 parking spaces [from the F St. vehicle closure] plus the parking spaces lost for the boat ramp. Food carts are competition”.

“Where are [food cart customers] going to go to the restrooms? Not the city ones, because half the time they are closed – they are going to use mine. What about trash? We can talk about this stuff, but the cart is too far ahead of the horse. Let’s not put development ahead of infrastructure.”

Will the F Street Pedestrian Plaza return in 2024?

During council reports at the end of the meeting, the SCC returned to the issues raised during citizen comments.

“Are we going to continue to have the F Street closure?” asked Mayor Pro-Tem Justin Critelli. “Let’s commit to the idea first and then see. I agree with not putting development ahead of infrastructure – not that I’m not open, I would love to dive into this – but I think we need to talk about whether we are going to make this an institution or not.”

“I have mixed feelings about the F Street closure,” said council member Dominique Naccarato. “I agree with the people who say that it’s too late to consider the food carts – but what I do hear is some desire for more stuff happening on the street. Maybe Arts and Culture can arrange for some performances. We could convene a committee in October or November to have a recommendation by January or February… the planning piece is hard for businesses if they don’t know until May 2 whether the street is going to be closed or not.”

With concurrence from other council members, the idea of a fall, 2023 work session for planning purposes was accepted for the 2024 season (and possibly beyond).

“I am questioning the street closure altogether now,” said member Alisa Pappenfort. “If it doesn’t liven up this summer I would be against it next summer. Parking is an issue, but we don’t have $5 million to spend for the Union Pacific property [across the river.] If we eliminated the street closure, that would end the parking issue – I would like to see it liven up to make it worth all the agony of putting it on!”

“What I heard from business owners that came tonight is that there’s a lot of stress involved in running a business in Salida,” said Mike Pollock. “It’s a very small town with limited resources – there’s lots of discretionary spending from visitors but winter is tough – business owners need some certainty [about the closure].”

New Salida Community Stage in 200 block of F Street awaits performance artists. Merrell Bergin photo

“Let’s make it fun or let’s not do it anymore,” said Jane Templeton. “I know there are huge numbers of people who appreciate it, but we have to do what’s best for the whole community.”

Plans to attract more locals and visitors to the half block of 100 F Street (including the “community stage” as a magnet to draw people down to the river) also have yet to be announced, with the Plaza set to open in just one week.

“I think the reason people were here is that they felt caught by surprise that we brought this up two weeks ago,” concluded Mayor Dan Shore: “I do agree more planning is critical – parking continues to be an issue.”

Amplified sound permits discussed — again

In other business, the SCC held a public hearing on an amplified sound application from High Side! Bar and Grill, seeking an extension of the live music “curfew” from 10:00 p.m. to 10:30 pm on June 3. Council members noted that while both owners of High Side! Bar and Grill spoke earlier in opposition to the idea of food carts on F Street, they left the chambers before the public hearing on their sound permit.

The City Administrator already grants permits for up to sixty events per venue during the summer season and those have a cutoff of 10:00 p.m. The hearing for High Side! Bar and Grill was intended to address the later cutoff time for this one date. No one present could recall a later time extension being requested by a venue in 2022 (apart from special festival weekends). While multiple council members expressed concern that granting the later half-hour might be cited as a future precedent, the permit was granted.

The SCC also approved Resolution 2023-26, adopting the 2023-24 policy statement for the Colorado Communities for Climate Action; and approved on first reading Ordinance 2023-08, seeking to limit vehicle idling within the city limits to 15 minutes or less, and setting a public hearing date of June 6 for the second reading. Council member Mike Pollock was the sole nay vote, saying “I haven’t witnessed this myself as a problem – I just worry about putting a lot of rules on the books that don’t have a lot of meat or enforceability.”

Executive Session expanded to include pending litigation

Finally, just before the SCC convened an Executive Session to discuss the ongoing wastewater system dispute with Poncha Springs, came the announcement from City  Attorney Nina Williams that Poncha Springs was taking the City of Salida to court over the issue. Shore then called for an amendment to the original motion to discuss the lawsuit pending in Chaffee County Court. Upon motion approval, the Executive Session concluded at 8:09 p.m. The council did not return to public session, instead adjourning without releasing any statement at the time.

Featured image; Members of the Salida City Council about to start their meeting. (Left to right) are Jane Templeton, Harald Kasper, Dominique Naccarato, Mayor Dan Shore, Mayor Pro Tem Justin Critelli, and Alisa Pappenfort. Not shown: Mike Pollock, who attends virtually. AVV staff photo