Councilor Calls Mayor’s Downtown Food Truck Plan ‘Insensitive’

City Councilor Michael S. McGonagle.

The Haverhill city councilors aren’t satisfied with a plan to send non-taxpaying vendors downtown to compete with existing businesses.

Eight councilors voted this week to return the city’s proposed food truck “peddling and soliciting” ordinance to a subcommittee for review with the mayor. Councilor Melinda Barrett, who owns a business adjacent to the proposed food truck area, abstained. The action was taken after David Van Dam, chief of staff for Mayor James J. Fiorentini, told the council of a plan, using a grant, to designate an area between the parking deck and Pentucket Bank for food vendors.

“Potentially, I say grant. It’s not a lot of money, but it would give us the ability to, in between the space downtown, on the Goecke side, the Goecke and the community room at the bank, there’s a bricked area there. Certainly, in that area, is what we’re thinking of redoing it a bit, potentially with this money and setting up some trucks there if that worked. It wouldn’t take away from the traffic, the space on the street certainly,” Van Dam said.

Some, including Councilor Michael S. McGonagle, expressed concern of vendor trucks competing with downtown businesses while other commercial space, including those on Essex Street, have remained empty. McGonagle said the idea was “insensitive.”

“These people have been impacted by tearing the buildings down. If you’ve gone into A-1 Deli and talked to them when the roads were closed, when the buildings were coming down, it impacted their business. I think you’re going to see more of that before we’re done. So why put that in there? I don’t think you’re going to bring any new people during that construction other than the workers who might frequent the establishments that are down there,” McGonagle said.

Haverhill City Councilor Thomas Sullivan.

Haverhill City Councilor Thomas Sullivan.

Councilor Thomas Sullivan questioned taking such a direction when “our downtown is not completely filled.” “The Hamel Mill Lofts is empty on the first floor. Retail was supposed to go there years ago. Not one has shown up. I’m not quite sure what the reason is for that, but I’d be very interested in learning why no retail has gone in at the first floor of Hamel. Right across the street at the Chen building there’s going to be a whole (first) floor of retail and convenience stores and the like. Harbor Place, we’re going to have at least three restaurants, maybe more, on the Merrimack Street side. Yet we want to stick food trucks somewhere on very narrow roads in our downtown. Food trucks tend to be sizable and I don’t know where they’re gonna fit,” Sullivan said.

The proposed ordinance revision was recently forwarded to the full council after review from the Administration and Finance committee.


Area of land being considered by the mayor for food trucks, as seen during the Harbor Place groundbreaking ceremony last year.

6 thoughts on “Councilor Calls Mayor’s Downtown Food Truck Plan ‘Insensitive’

  1. I think allowing food trucks downtown is a great idea. They offer many different types of cuisines and something quick for people working downtown to grab for lunch. Food trucks also could draw in people from nearby towns who then may be inclined to hang around our city and see the other options that are available to them for the next time. With all of the social media that food trucks rely on to bring in customers, it’s a great way to bring people downtown.

  2. Why allow food trucks at all in downtown? Its going to distract anyone from opening a brick and mortar store and allowing trucks may force closings. Just say NO to food trucks down town. JMO

  3. Many reasons for empty space….economic, lack of interest, no destination draw, no proactive economic plan, ect. Why add competition with a small grant ? Also, what Vandam said made no sense at all. Is that the best he can do ? If so, we are in trouble.

  4. Thomas Sullivan: You don’t know why there is no retail going into downtown? Have you been paying attention to what this intrusive government has done to downtown under this tax and spend mayor? Why would anyone business person invest money in an area which is the central focus point of intrusive tax policies? You do know about the parking tax, right? And you know the mayor wants to increase that tax, don’t you? Are you aware the mayor bought a car and hired employees to drive around downtown with the sole purposes of ticketing cars parked at expired meters? Thomas, are you unaware that since the parking tax has been implemented downtown the number of vehicles ticketed has sky rocketed? What business person in their right mind would move to an area under these conditions where their customers are not going to be driven off by a money grabbing mayor? And you know about the meals tax, don’t you Thomas? Why would any restaurant owner invest in an area that has imposed TWO taxes that their customers must pay just to have a meal? And most importantly Thomas, why would any business owner, restaurant or retail, invest in an area that refuses to reveal the numbers relating to the huge number of people who don’t even visit downtown any longer because of these policies?

  5. Honestly, we don’t need or have room for food trucks. Retail is sorely needed for downtown residents, there is no convenient place to walk for basic groceries and needs. Crossing the crazy busy stretch of road to Market Basket is daunting, walking on the back street through a less than desirable area to get to the only CVS is not a great option. Some other options would be better suited to the waving of taxes and fees.