Southampton Town Board Rejects Food Trucks At Farmstands, Though Not Unanimously

Southampton Town Board member Christine Scalera and Julie Lofstad voted in favor of allowing farmstands to have food trucks operate on the property, though the Town Supervisor and other two board members voted against the measure. GREG WEHNER

Southampton Town Board members, in a 3-2 vote, shot down legislation on Tuesday that would have permitted food trucks to set up at a handful of farm stands in the town, in exchange for using local produce.

Town Board member Christine Scalera proposed the legislation in May after Amy Halsey-Cohn, the owner of The Milk Pail in Water Mill, approached her and asked how they could have a food truck located at their farm stand as a way to boost and enhance their business.
When it came to a vote, Ms. Scalera and Town Board member Julie Lofstad voted in favor of the measure, but Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and Town Board members John Bouvier and Tommy John Schiavoni voted against it — though there was conversation about revisiting the issue of food trucks before next summer.

A mechanism to allow food trucks at farm stands does not currently exist in the town code, so Assistant Town Attorney Kathryn Garvin drafted legislation that would allow third-party vendors to operate food trucks at the stands. The legislation also allowed only pre-existing farm stands to have the food trucks as an accessory use.

According to Ms. Garvin, the legislation would have applied to only a handful of farm stands.

“The whole point of this is to allow a third party to come on and operate a food truck,” Ms. Garvin said during a public hearing on Tuesday.

Through the public hearing process, farmers, business owners and members of the community voiced opinions, many against the measure.

The result was that the legislation was rewritten to require the food truck to be attached to the farm or to a local restaurant, and for 80 percent of the food sold from the trucks to come from the farm.

David Falkowski, the owner of Open Minded Organics on Butter Lane in Bridgehampton, asked Town Board members to take their time with the legislation, because accounting for the 80 percent would be difficult. At different times throughout the year, he explained, certain crops grow better than others, and in May, he may be able to provide only lettuce.
Mr. Schneiderman said the legislation should really be about food trucks and where they can and cannot go, and that the revisions to the code did not really belong with the farm stand portion of the code.

He also said he could not support the allowance of food trucks, because they change the aesthetics of the area, the town cannot control what the trucks look like, and they may impact residential areas, among other reasons.

Ms. Scalera told Mr. Schneiderman on Tuesday it was not about food trucks and that it belonged in the farm stand portion of the code because it supported farming.

All along, Ms. Scalera has supported the measure because it helps the farmer, she said. When she forced a vote on the legislation on Tuesday, she acknowledged that she did not think she had the support of the board but hoped the conversation would continue.

Mr. Bouvier said everyone agreed that the board should help out the farmers, and food trucks may be the solution. He added that there may be another way to get farm stands to have food trucks, and urged the other board members to table the resolution and figure it out.

Mr. Schiavoni said his biggest drawback with the resolution was that it allowed a third-party accessory use, which he was against.

“We need to support the farmer however we can,” Ms. Lofstad said. “As a farmer of the sea, I’m in the same boat.” She went on to say she supported Ms. Scalera’s proposed legislation, and if it were to be rejected, she hoped the conversation would continue.

Just before the vote, Mr. Schneiderman said the intent of the legislation was good. He also said he wants to sit down with Ms. Halsey to come up with another way that may work, before next summer.