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Lathrop: Take law, debate for 2 months, & do nothing
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LATHROP – After a two-month long flap over taco trucks and their impacts on Lathrop restaurants in, the City Council finally rendered a decision Monday night after weeks of continuing the matter to gather more information.

Their decision? Do nothing.

With arguments from both sides logged on the record, and a council-suggested sit-down meeting between brick-and-mortar restaurant owners and mobile vendors in the books, the council voted 3-2 – with council members Martha Salcedo and Omar Ornelas dissenting – to leave the ordinance currently in place alone.

“We have restaurant owners wanting 15 minutes and we have mobile vendors wanting six hours,” Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal said. “I think we should just meet in the middle at three hours, which is where things are at right now.”

The current ordinance allows for taco trucks and mobile vendors to setup in residential areas for 30 minutes as long as they adhere to a 500-foot buffer and up to three hours in a commercial zone if the same buffer is observed. Industrial areas allow for the trucks to operate for up to 23 hours before they have to move.

Former Lathrop councilman Steve Dresser made a suggestion to stave off an impasse that instead of rewriting or reworking the current ordinance the city should just grandfather the existing mobile vendors in as “temporary vendors.” While 10 are licensed to operate in the city, Dresser said, only five are active and only four of those licenses are being used – meaning that once one of those four were to cease to operate, only three would be left, and so on.

“There will never be a way to appease both sides in this,” Dresser said. “There will always be one group on one side and another group on the other side saying that you’re taking away from my ability to make a living.”

Fire Chief Gene Neely – who voiced his concerns at past meetings about safety issues with the mobile trucks because they rely on propane to operate and echoed those sentiments Monday night – added another dimension to the scenario that hadn’t been previously discussed.

According to Neely, mobile vendors can’t park in a given spot for more than an hour unless they meet certain criteria – like being located more than 50 feet away from a building, and being located away from what could be considered ignition sources.

Regardless of the outcome the council chose, Neely said, he would still have to enforce the fire code that governs the City of Lathrop.

When compared to other communities, Lathrop’s ordinance is relatively lenient – putting it on par with communities like Stockton that don’t have strict enforcement policies that essentially prevent mobile vendors from being able to set up in a given place at all. Both Ripon and Manteca have enacted ordinances which give the trucks 10 minutes regardless of the zone they’re occupying.