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Mesa City Council will vote on creating a mobile food vendor license to regulate the city’s food trucks.

Coming soon to Mesa: Business licenses and food truck permits.

While Mesa has plenty of food trucks slinging tacos and burgers – notably at the Feastable Forrest every Saturday evening at Pioneer Park – they are currently considered “peddlers.”

After a study session on the topic, Mesa City Council will vote this month on removing food truck employees from having peddler licenses, which require background checks, and creating a new category of “mobile food vendors.”

A presentation stressed this would be a quicker process for the food trucks, which would have annual inspections and pay $100 per year. The annual fee for peddlers and solicitors is proposed to increase from $30 to $100.

According to Tim Meyer, of the city’s Business Licensing and Revenue department, under the Peddler Code, “All employees have to go through a background check; that can take six to eight weeks.”

The mobile food vendor code requires only owners to do background checks.

“Mesa has a reputation for over regulating,” said Mayor John Giles.

City Manager Chris Brady said the market demands a change.

“We’re anxious to get it done because of complaints we’re getting, some of the delays for fingerprinting,” he said. “We are trying to respond to the industry.”

Sheepishly, he added, “We didn’t know about food trucks so we just put them into peddlers. Now we’re realizing that doesn’t work.”

“I agree with Mr. Brady, let’s make changes as soon as we can,” Giles said.

Mesa also appears poised to launch business licenses.

Those who do commerce in the city currently are not required to have a license; Phoenix and Tempe also do not require licenses for businesses.

Apache Junction, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale and Scottsdale do require business licenses, according to a recent Mesa study season on the topic.

City staff said a license requirement of the approximately 10,000 Mesa businesses would “protect the health and safety of our residents.”

The city would need two new full-time employees to process the business licenses, according to the presentation, which noted the Mesa Chamber of Commerce supports the idea.

Mesa is considering a $10 business fee with a $25 renewal. 

By comparison, Chandler charges a $45 initial fee and the same renewal, while Scottsdale’s business license fee is $62 with a $50 renewal. Gilbert’s fee is $35 with a $15 renewal fee.

“We’re at the very low end and we did it on purpose … We didn’t want the dollars to be the barrier of getting people to register,” said Brady. 

Councilwoman Julie Spilsbury stressed the message to the business community needs to be clear: “I think if we can communicate why we’re doing this and not that we’re trying to control them more, which is what everyone’s afraid of now,” she said.

“This is something we’re doing to help the businesses, not to milk them,” Giles added.

During budget study sessions, council heard presentations from the Parks Department, which will ask for a 22 percent increase from its $31.3 million allocation to $37.1 million.

Notably, the department seeks to increase the number of park rangers, from seven to 11.

The city park rangers enforce park rules and “coordinate, assist and communicate with (the Mesa Police Department) on shared concerns.”

Goals of the rangers include “increased focus on response to homelessness concerns,” with the park watchers “currently spending approximately 75 percent of (their) time on homeless issues.”

The department also has scheduled expansions of Monterey Park, with a baseball/softball quad and playground replacement planned for the winter of 2022, the North Center Sports Complex, with five soccer fields planned to start construction this summer and be ready next fall, and Red Mountain Park, with 10 soccer fields and a baseball/softball quad planned for the winter of 2023.

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