Montgomery’s proposed food truck ordinance sparks allegations of ‘personal vendetta’

Former mayoral candidate Bill Clevenger (bottom left) argues with Mayor Sarah Countryman (third from left) on why his business should be allowed to open. (Screenshot via Montgomery City Council livestream)
Former mayoral candidate Bill Clevenger (bottom left) argues with Mayor Sarah Countryman (third from left) on why his business should be allowed to open. (Screenshot via Montgomery City Council livestream)

Former mayoral candidate Bill Clevenger (bottom left) argues with Mayor Sarah Countryman (third from left) on why his business should be allowed to open. (Screenshot via Montgomery City Council livestream)

Tensions ran high at the July 13 Montgomery City Council meeting over a city ordinance that, if passed, would require mobile food units in the Historic Downtown District to follow certain restrictions, such as requiring a special-use permit and closing at 7 pm.

Two businesses in particular—Texas Twist and Shakes, an ice cream truck, and Wilderlove Coffee—took issue with the proposal, and some members of the public accused Mayor Sarah Countryman of having a “personal vendetta.”

Bill Clevenger, who lost to Countryman in the last election, has plans to open his ice cream concept, Texas Twist and Shakes, in Montgomery’s historic district. According to Clevenger, the city had approved of his design and granted him permits. However, he recently received a letter in the mail stating that he was in violation of city code and he would not be allowed to operate “through no fault of your own.”

“What city code have I violated? Nobody knows,” Clevenger said.

Clevenger spoke on the July 13 agenda item regarding a food truck ordinance, believing the proposed item and the city’s denial of his mobile unit were related. He also alleged this was a personal attack.

According to the agenda packet, the ordinance would amend city Ordinance No. 1996-3 and require mobile food units to have a special-use permit, operate between 9 a.m.-7 p.m., avoid parking within 50 feet of any street corner or sidewalk, and avoid sales within 1,000 feet of a school, among other restrictions.

“If you pass the ordinance tonight, you destroy my business,” Clevenger told council members.

Wilderlove Coffee owner Kade Jenkins also pleaded with council members to not pass the ordinance, saying he could not financially afford a special-use permit.

Several local business owners attended the meeting and spoke during public comment in support of Clevenger. Countryman had initially said she would allow for only three members of the public—which she would choose at random—to speak on the agenda item to save time. However, after objection from Council Member Kevin Lacey and others, Countryman opted to allow everyone who had signed up to speak, but only for two minutes instead of three.

Courtney Weidner, vice president of Women’s Food Truck Organization and Conroe resident, asked council to grant Clevenger’s permit.

“I understand there’s some conflict with neighboring businesses possibly. ... [But his business] screams something new and different,” she said.

Karla Nash, former owner of Cork This Winery in Montgomery, said she is having difficulty understanding why an ice cream business should have to jump through so many hoops.

“I hope this is not a personal vendetta against someone who ran against the mayor in the last election,” she said.

Meanwhile, Countryman said that Clevenger’s business permit was a separate issue from the ordinance item that was placed on the agenda. She said the city had only approved certain permits for his business and never granted final approval, and all she was asking him to do was get a special-use permit.

“We’ve done this before [with other businesses] ... you are not singled out,” she told Clevenger.

Countryman also denied allegations of any personal or political motive.

Emotions ran high, eventually erupting into yelling and threats to remove individuals from the room. Clevenger threatened to sue the city if his business was denied.

Lacey asked council members to take accountability if a mistake was made on their end during the permitting process and asked to table the item until emotions could settle.

Council members agreed.
By Eva Vigh
Eva Vigh joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 as a reporter for Spring and Klein. Prior to this position, she covered upstream oil and gas news for a drilling contractors' association.


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