TOWN COUNCIL MEETING UPDATE February 1st 2022
FOOD TRUCK EVENT IN LIMBO
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
February 1st 2022
RICHMOND — The popular summer food truck event is now up in the air after Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, when council members mulled dropping the current organizer and hiring a new company. The meeting ended with neither company being selected.
On the council agenda was a “discussion and consideration” of a proposal from PVD Food Trucks, which has organized the event for two summers and sought an agreement with the town for a third season. The events, featuring live entertainment, would, as in previous years, take place at 4 Richmond Townhouse Road, across from the Town Hall, on seven Thursday evenings, beginning in April and ending in October.
PVD Food Trucks owner Eric Weiner had sent a proposal for the council to consider, but in a separate agenda item, Town Council President Nell Carpenter had requested that the council also consider a proposal from a different company, Ocean State Food Truck Festivals.
Carpenter allowed Weiner to speak, but not for long.
“A brief summation, because we certainly have the proposal before us and we’ve all, as members of council, had an opportunity to read it,” she said. “So, very briefly, please, if you’d like to speak, Mr. Weiner, go right ahead.”
Speaking via computer at the remote meeting, Weiner, who works with 60 food trucks throughout Rhode Island, said that 2021 had been a difficult year due to the pandemic, but that he was looking forward to beginning a third season in Richmond.
“I think we’ve built something now that the community looks forward to and the Town Council can see a value in,” he said. “We are a professional organization.”
Council member Lauren Cacciola told Weiner she had concerns about traffic safety, especially when it gets dark earlier in the fall. She also asked if PVD Food Trucks welcomes the participation of non profit groups.
Weiner said he had worked with Town Administrator Karen Pinch and Police Chief Elwood Johnson to address possible hazards relating to the increased traffic. He also noted that he would work with the town’s newly-formed Recreation Commission to facilitate the inclusion of non profit organizations at the events.
Both council Vice President James Palmisciano and councillor Ronnie Newman said they believed that the previous years’ events had been popular with residents.
But Carpenter said she had learned that last year, PVD Food Trucks had “sublet” town land that it was using free of charge to a local realtor.
“You sublet property to a local real estate agent,” she said. “I was concerned about that when that information was provided to me, because that wasn’t an individual affiliated with the food truck organization and not an individual who was properly vetted by the Richmond council, and in order to use town property, that’s a process that council determines.”
Weiner responded that the event had sponsors who purchase tables.
“Both last year and the year before, over the course of those events, there were three or four different sponsors that were on site with us next to our event van,” he said.
Carpenter interrupted, “Mr. Weiner, did you sublet the property to a real estate agent who’s located in the Town of Richmond?”
“No,” Weiner said, “we did not sublet any property. We did not charge any rental fees for your property.”
Carpenter responded, “I know for a fact that you did. I’m not going to mention their name or the agency.”
“We sell sponsorships for our events, but we don’t sublet people’s land or property,” Weiner said.
Carpenter responded, “You charged $250 to a local real estate agent during your food truck event.”
Correct, but it wasn’t to sublet your land,” Weiner said.
“That’s exactly what you did,” Carpenter countered. “You had use of the property and you profited off of subletting it to another entity that was not food truck-related.”
Cacciola asked whether Weiner would be open to having the event on Mondays or Tuesdays, rather than Thursdays, which are profitable days for local brick-and-mortar restaurants, and Weiner said he would.
Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth pointed out that the council would need to clarify the parameters of Weiner’s proposal before proceeding with a contract and Carpenter agreed.
The council then heard from Joseph Boisvert, owner of Ocean State Food Truck Festivals. Boisvert’s preliminary proposal, which lists events his company has organized throughout Rhode Island, calls for the host town to receive 10 percent from all food sales and 20 percent of sales from the beer garden. The events would take place on Tuesdays.
Adam Batchelder, a Boisvert supporter and the owner of “Smoke and Squeal BBQ,” made several comments criticizing Weiner’s operation.
“You have to pay a yearly fee just to be part of his group and if you don’t pay, you pay a higher percentage fee at the events,” he said. “The other things that turned us off from those events were, you were required to give out three free meals a [sic] event, which the owner of that would sometimes take personally.”
Palmisciano interjected, “I just think, in fairness, if you could just stick to your experience with Ocean State,” he said.
Palmisciano asked Boisvert if, in the event that his company was not chosen for the food truck event, he would be interested in working with the Recreation Commission on other events and Boisvert said he would “absolutely be willing to participate with Richmond on any event that you have, because I can’t participate, like many other trucks who choose not to pay to play.”
Cacciola asked what the next step would be.
“What we have before us are two proposals, and it is council’s charge to select one,” Carpenter said.
Cacciola made a motion to choose Ocean State Food Truck Festivals, and Carpenter seconded the motion, but Ellsworth stepped in, warning that the council did not yet have an actual proposal from Ocean State.
“I have no idea what that motion is,” she said. “It would be impossible for staff to implement it, because it doesn’t have enough specifics. I don’t think you have a proposal from Ocean State. You have a flyer from Ocean State that describes what they do, but you don’t have the same kind of information from them that you have from PVD so that you can put the two side by side and compare them.”
Carpenter responded, “I would agree with you, but the first year that PVD was before us, they had nothing different than this and I believe council would need to consider, and that’s what discussions for, I firmly believe we need to have some sort of contract in place, similar, that echoes that.”
Cacciola asked how she should phrase her motion and Ellsworth responded, “Well, the first thing you might want to talk about is why you would want to have food truck events taking place at exactly the same time as Town Council meetings and Planning Board meetings.”
(Council and Planning Board meetings are scheduled on alternate Tuesdays, so there are meetings every Tuesday of each month.)
“That was an error on my part, so thank you for clarifying it, I appreciate it,” Cacciola said.
After some procedural wrangling, a motion to renew the agreement with PVD Food Trucks failed in a tie vote with Palmisciano and Newman in favor and Carpenter and Cacciola opposed. The fifth council member, Richard Nassaney, did not attend the meeting.
Cacciola then made a motion to approve discussions between Ocean State Food Truck Events and the town’s Recreation Commission.
Palmisciano voiced his frustration with the way the discussion had been conducted.
“I think we have an opportunity to bring a food truck event that’s been extremely popular in the past and have an opportunity to expand,” he said. “I’m not happy with how this whole thing transpired and I just want to be on the record to say that.”
Newman added, “I totally agree with Vice President Palmisciano on this, totally.”
Carpenter said there would be considerably more value from the Ocean State events, particularly the percentages given back to the town.
Palmisciano said the money, while “compelling,” was, at that point, an assumption, since no formal proposal had been submitted.
Ellsworth added, “I just want to caution all of you that you can’t say that you’re going to make a profit with one of these promoters and not the other, because you don’t have a specific draft agreement with both of them. We don’t have the details yet of exactly what Ocean State is going to pay for and what they’re not going to pay for. It could turn out to be revenue neutral.”
Carpenter responded, “With all due respect, Solicitor Ellsworth, revenue neutral - that’s not favorable for the town.”
“That’s exactly my point,” Ellsworth replied.
Cacciola made a motion to approve discussions between Ocean State Food Truck Events and the Recreation Commission, and also solicit input from town staff, to determine what would be best for the community. Carpenter and Cacciola voted to approve the motion and Newman and Palmisciano were opposed, so once again, the tie vote meant that the motion had failed.
A phone call to Eric Weiner was not returned, so it is not clear whether he still plans to have the outdoor entertainment license application for his proposed events considered at a public hearing on Feb. 15.
A REVERSAL ON THE POTTS FOUNDATION
After denying a request from the Maddie Potts Foundation at the Jan. 4 council meeting to reimburse the foundation for the $5,120 building permit fee that the foundation has already paid to the town, the council approved a refund of $4,698.97 to the foundation.
Maddie Potts died suddenly on the Chariho soccer field in 2017. Her parents, Dan and Stephanie Potts, started the Maddie Potts Foundation to raise funds for a new field house at Chariho to honor Maddie’s legacy, and construction is well underway.
The town had already voted on Jan. 4 to reimburse $1,540 of the permit fee and had asked the Chariho towns of Hopkinton and Charlestown to contribute equal amounts, but both towns declined.
In a Jan. 7 letter to Carpenter, foundation board member Melissa DeJoseph blasted the council for not approving the foundation’s request.
“The lack of support and deafening silence that occurred at the Richmond Town Council meeting on January 4, 2022, was honestly quite shocking to all of us,” she wrote. “The Maddie Potts Foundation is known for and has worked tirelessly to develop powerful community platform of support, which is exactly why we are able to entirely donate a 3,000+ square foot building to our school system in less than four years. This is an accomplishment that should be commended and supported at the highest level. The fact that our town, the town Maddie grew up in, attended school in, and tried with all her young being to improve, has been the most adversarial is truly confusing to our Board and Richmond residents alike.”
Carpenter said the council had found an alternate path for reimbursing the full permit fee.
“Up until this point, we’ve never addressed something in a retroactive form,” she said. “The perception was of a gift, and although Vice President Palmisciano brought this up at the first meeting, unfortunately, we didn’t really pursue that angle and we probably could have dealt with it then, so I certainly apologize to the Madde Potts Foundation members for not addressing this appropriately at that first meeting and I apologize to our staff for the time that they’ve invested in this.”
The foundation will also be exempt from any further building permit fees.
Beaver River Valley Community Association
P.O. Box 10, Shannock, RI 02875
Clarification to the Planning Board Update of January 25th 2022
Crossman Engineering, which performed the peer review requested by the town and paid for by the applicant, submitted its review in Dec. 2021, and the applicant’s engineer submitted his response to the review a few days later.
Crossman then submitted a memo, dated Jan. 3, responding to the comments by the applicant’s engineer, however, Lacey did not distribute that memo to Planning Board members before the Jan. 25 hearing. Resnick believed they had seen the memo, although it soon became apparent that they had not.
The applicant has already agreed to adopt several of Crossman’s recommendations, but he has challenged Crossman’s contention that
some of the storm water permit issued by the state does not meet all of the requirements of the town’s own subdivision regulations. Resnick argued that if the development had already received the state permit, the stormwater management plans were, therefore, sufficient.
When the public hearing resumes on February 8, Planning Board members will decide whether the town’s subdivision regulations require the applicant to comply with the rest of Crossman’s suggestions.