Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Chamber gets pushback on proposal to extend Euro Market for food trucks

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By KEVIN NEVERS

The Duneland Chamber of Commerce ran into a buzzsaw of pushback at Monday night’s meeting of the Chesterton Town Council, after President Maura Durham floated the notion of expanding the European Market all the way south along Third Street to West Indiana Ave.

The rationale for so doing, Durham said: the Porter County Health Department is encouraging, but not mandating, that outdoor food vendors move their operations into self-contained vehicles--food trucks--for hygiene’s sake.

The problem, Durham said, is that the current 10’ x 10’ tent plot isn’t nearly large enough for a vehicle 20 or 30 feet in length. By expanding the Market from the north side of the east/west alley running parallel with West Indiana Ave. all the way south to West Indiana Ave., an additional 120 feet or so would be created for parking those food trucks.

Durham added that the alley exit itself would need to be temporarily blocked for the Market’s hours of operation, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays during the season.

Blocked indeed. Laura Layman, a resident of the 300 block of West Indiana Ave. who uses that alley, noted that she would in fact be “100 percent blocked in by the extension of the Market.” As it is now, Layman noted, the combination of the one-way West Indiana Ave. and the one-way alley behind her home causes no end of traffic mayhem in her neighborhood, and extending the Market would only make it worse. “There’d be more confused people than there are right now,” she said. “And there are a lot right now. And those confused people are just going to exacerbate that whole area.”

Layman invited council members to visit her home, on any day of the week, to see just how many motorists flat out ignore the one-way signage or just fail to see it. “Come by and enjoy the show,” she said. “It’s entertaining.”

But Layman had one other objection to the proposal. The food trucks themselves would likely prove to be a sonic nuisance to neighbors, she predicted, with their rumbling, grumbling generators. “Stacking up food trucks, I don’t think it’s befitting our European Market,” Layman said.

Lisa Stamm, director of the Westchester Public Library, had concerns of her own. For one thing, the Market--both its vendors and its visitors--often grab the lion’s share of parking spaces in the library’s two lots, one on either side of Third Street. “Patrons coming to the library on a Saturday have nowhere to park,” she said. On top of that, Stamm, like Layman, has personally observed “a lot of wrong-way driving,” while motorists traveling in the east-west alley behind the library often drive it “at speed like it’s a regular thoroughfare.”

Kathy Cochran, a member of the WPL’s Board of Directors, offered her own concerns about the safety of the children visiting the library on Saturdays. “We’d be devastated” if someone were hurt by a motorist not using common sense or caution, she said.

Meanwhile, Laura Verheaghe, owner of the Red Cup Cafe in the 100 block of Broadway, suggested that encouraging food trucks to become a bigger part of the Market than they are now would be akin to slitting the throats of the Downtown’s brick-and-mortar restaurants. “Having more food trucks hurts my business,” she told the council. “I have a brick-and-mortar business, and if we’re going to have a food court with food trucks I may as well close my shop. I rely on the summer business to make it through the winter.”

In the end the council declined to approve the Chamber’s request. Instead, members urged Durham and the Market’s director, Chad Burns, to work with staff at a weekly department head meeting to discuss other options: possibly parking food trucks on Broadway; or else moving more vendors’ tents into Thomas Centennial Park, thus freeing space in the Chamber parking lot; or simply putting its foot down when it comes to more food trucks.

For one thing, suggested Member Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, the Market is set to open in only two weeks, on Saturday, May 4. “I think you’re coming to the table a little late for us to crunch this through in two weeks. This should have started months ago, with the department heads.”

The Chamber, DeLaney added, should be asking itself this question: “What can the Chamber do for the negatively impacted brick-and-mortar businesses hurt by the Market?”

Member Jim Ton, R-1st, for his part indicated that, at first blush, he thought the proposal of extending the Market not a bad one. But Layman, Stamm, Cochran, and Verheaghe all made “valid points that can’t be brushed away.”

Ton also made this point: the Porter County Health Department may be pushing for food trucks, but it isn’t requiring them either. “That’s not a must,” he said. “That’s a choice.”

In short, Ton said, should the council allow the Chamber to extend the Market for the sake of food trucks, “there’ll be a lot of locals who come up on the short end.”

 

Posted 4/23/2019

 
 
 
 

 

 

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