Hutto City Council members will vote this month on whether to extend the hours of operation for mobile food vendors, or food trucks, operating in the city. However, previous council discussions on the topic revolved around greater regulation of both food truck and farmers market vendors.

How it happened

During a City Council work session Dec. 14, city staff and council members discussed existing city ordinances governing mobile food vendors. A consensus was reached, by both staff and council, on the necessity to revise and update these policies. Several City Council members voiced additional concerns for other types of food vendors operating in the area, specifically the Hutto Farmers Market.

Council members wanted to ensure that if a vendor operated within Hutto city limits, the city would receive the applicable sales tax, offering the example of food trucks that move from one city to another but only pay taxes to the city listed as their permanent address.

“I feel like we’re about to have a civil war in downtown between the people paying taxes and the people not paying taxes,” Mayor Mike Snyder said, referring to brick-and-mortar establishments versus transient food vendors.

Other considerations brought up by council members included:
  • Parking
  • Sales being taken away from downtown businesses
  • Competing music or entertainment in the downtown area
  • Vendors encroaching on public rights of way
  • Hand washing stations/health inspections
  • Access to restrooms
“When people come into the city, we don’t have a health department, but they do expect some level of regulation.” Snyder said.

The Hutto Farmers Market is currently regulated under the city’s special events permitting, which applies to events or activities that are conducted mostly outdoors and potentially interfere with the normal flow of vehicle or pedestrian traffic, or require special city services or parking arrangements. This includes events held on private property.

Place 5 council member Dana Wilcott expressed a desire to push farmers market events onto city-owned property known as The Gin. The location provides on-site parking and restroom access for special events.

Put in perspective

Joseph Cortez and Daniela Medellin, the husband-and-wife duo who run the Hutto Farmers Market, raised concerns with statements made by council members in the meeting. The Hutto Farmers Market operates in the downtown area every Wednesday, from 3-7 p.m., and includes a variety of food vendors and small business owners.

“This is our community; this is our livelihood,” Cortez said. “When we heard all these claims being made, we had to speak up.”
Joseph Cortez speaks before a crowd of fellow small business owners during public comment at the Jan. 4 City Council meeting in Hutto. (Haley McLeod/Community Impact)
The work session prompted Cortez, Medellin and a significant group of supporters to speak on behalf of the weekly event during the Jan. 4 City Council meeting. A mix of downtown business owners and farmers market vendors provided testimony endorsing the current downtown location of the farmers market, highlighting the market’s overall benefit to the community.

“We want to continue supporting small businesses that are providing cleaner, more ethical and better options,” Medellin said.

Nick Pierce, owner of Mossy Rock Coffee, shared his transition from an Austin-area forensic toxicologist to a small-business owner during the meeting. As he needed to be at home to care for his wife's declining health, Pierce started his own coffee roasting business from home.

Pierce told council the Hutto Farmers Market played a crucial role as the first venue where he could sell his product. He emphasized that the farmers market is a significant factor in preserving the small-town charm of Hutto, which initially drew him to the city.

“You are going to hear maybe a lot of anger, or fear, coming from a lot of the vendors today because of that meeting and what we were hearing. I am not here to do that. I am here for concern—concern about our community,” Pierce said.

“As residents, we should be lifting each other up during these hard economic times, not pointing fingers and blaming others for failing business policies. What we should be doing is collaborating. Just because I operate a business out of my home under Cottage Food Law and my main outlet is pop-ups and farmers markets, does not make my business less legitimate. We all have to start somewhere. I chose a product that did not require a high investment capital to start. I did that on purpose.”

Medellin noted that all vendors are required to undergo an application process, and additional permits or licenses may be necessary based on the type of the goods the vendor intends to sell.

Furthermore, she mentioned that the Hutto Farmers Market, in its review process, has declined certain vendors because of the existing brick-and-mortar businesses in the downtown area, such as the flower boutique and pie shop.

In addition to these self-regulatory processes, farmers markets are highly regulated by the state, Medellin said.

Additional fees imposed by the city may price out some vendors, Cortez said.

Looking ahead

City staff has only been directed to look into the policies surrounding food truck operations in the city. City Council will vote on the hours of operation for these mobile food vendors at the Feb. 15 meeting.

It is unclear whether council members will continue discussion on other vendor operations, like the farmers market, at this meeting as there is currently not an official item on the agenda.

Though there is not a city health department governing the Hutto Farmers Market, vendors in the market must apply for and maintain permits annually through the Williamson County and Cities Health District.
Farmers markets are regulated by both the state and county. (Courtesy Hutto Farmers Market)
“Our biggest concern is just the over regulation and the overreach, quite frankly. ... And while it is technically legal for the city to further regulate and create ordinances, it's just something that is highly un-American,” Cortez said. “We really just want to continue existing, operating and doing the good thing that we're doing without the government trying to stifle that. A thriving farmers market—a thriving business in general—is good for the economy. And that's what builds community. That's what builds cities.”

For further licensing and regulatory questions for food vendors in Williamson county, visit the WCCHD website or call 512-248-7600.