Le Mu Eats. Bethel Citizen photo by Samuel Wheeler

BETHEL — Monday June 22, Bethel Selectmen unanimously voted to send a proposed amendment to Chapter 140-12 in town code to a special town meeting.

The amendment would apply to the site plan review ordinance and the article would be phrased as “Shall the town vote to amend the Site Plan Review ordinance to create a definition for Food Trucks, and exempt them from site plan review under the ordinance?”

Select Woman Michele Varuolo Cole suggested moving forward with the ordinance amendment. She also drafted the amendment wording and sent it to town officials.

A food truck is defined as  “any vehicle or trailer which is compliant with Maine law pertaining to motor vehicle and mobile food operationand engaged in the sale of food and requiring a Victualers license.”

The other change occurred in the definition of a structure (amendment in quotations):

Anything constructed, erected or placed on the ground which is permanent, temporary, or mobile “with the exception of food trucks as defined in this chapter.” Structures include, but are not limited to, buildings, mobile homes, recreational vehicles, piers and floats, and storage and processing facilities. Boundary walls, fences, roads, driveways, parking areas, and flagpoles are not considered structures.

Discussion on the subject started when Le Mu Eats, a small food business next to Steam Mill Brewery, was trying to get its victualers license renewed. The license renewal ended up being approved, but not until after lengthy debate on whether or not their business was actually a food truck. Discussion on this happen at a June 1 selectmen meeting.

Victualers licenses are locally issued every year and are mandatory for businesses preparing and selling food.

At the June 1 meeting, Cole said Le Mu’s decision not to leave their location next to the Steam Mill Brewery, where they’ve been since January 2019, clarifies the business as a commercial structure. It was one of several reasons Cole offered on why the business is not a food truck.

In a letter to the Bethel Citizen on June 18, Cole expressed her frustrations and concerns over the board’s handling of the situation. She said the trailer Le Mu operates from does not have an engine, nor does it possess a state registration for a trailer or truck.

Also in her letter Cole said the business fits the commercial structure definition in multiple places in town code.

The business was hauled from South Paris to Bethel early last year and was parked next to Steam Mill Brewing on Mechanic Street.

Owner and Chef of Le Mu Sav Sengsavang said his business has built a strong relationship with Steam Mill and were told by the owners that they wanted Le Mu to remain next to them.

“We could move if we wanted too,” Sengsavang said at the June 1 meeting.

“We’re on a trailer with wheels and we rent the land. We’ve been open to following any ordinances out there for us, but there are no ordinances for food trucks at the moment,” he added.

The town does not currently have a definition for food truck anywhere in its code.

Sengsavang said his business is a mobile structure according to the state of Maine, and that he would be in favor of having any ordinance on food trucks to follow.

At the June 1 meeting selectmen voted 3-1 in favor of renewing a victualers license for the tiny food establishment, with Cole opposed.

“It needs to go to the planning board for determination and review,” Cole said.

Some benefits of doing a site plan review are to examine the overall safety of the area, parking requirements and solid waste disposal.

Town Manager Loretta Powers said it is too late for any proposed ordinance change to be on this year’s warrant for the annual town meeting scheduled for Wednesday, July 15.

A date for the special town meeting has not been determined.

 

 

 

 

 

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