The St. Thomas Historic Preservation Committee (HPC) convened last Thursday, shedding light on concerns surrounding the approval process of mobile food vendors operating within downtown Charlotte Amalie. This meeting, ignited by proposals from the V.I. Department of Property and Procurement, expanded into a comprehensive discussion about the perception and genuine intent of the committee’s actions and decisions.
At the meeting’s tail end, HPC Chair Akil Petersen sought clarity from Sean Krigger, the Acting Director of the VI State Historical Preservation Society, about the approval methods for these culinary mobile establishments. In a recount of earlier administrative decisions, Mr. Krigger revealed, “There’s been a standing agreement from prior administrations to implement a broad moratorium on mobile food vendors in the downtown zone.” Consequently, under the new plan from Property & Procurement, food trucks are expected to remain predominantly in the Vendors Plaza region and other spots previously allocated to approved vendors, both during the day and at night.
The process of initiating a food truck business seems fairly detailed. Interested parties need to first acquire clearance for their desired spot from the Administrator’s Office. Subsequent approvals concerning the truck’s aesthetics like signage, graphics, and branding would come under the HPC’s purview. Finally, a police permit, alongside the necessary licenses to sell edible products, completes the requisite approvals.
The meeting also touched upon a contentious issue regarding a food truck stationed in front of the popular SeaGrape restaurant. “That operation wasn’t vetted through us,” Mr. Petersen pointed out. This was affirmed by Mr. Krigger, who stated that the vendor had received approval directly from the Administrator’s Office. The broader concern raised by Mr. Petersen highlighted the food truck’s signage, which he believes doesn’t align with the historic district’s visual standards, and its implications on established businesses with high-rent commitments. He proposed streamlining the approvals process to ensure consistency across the board.
Committee member, Enrique Rodriguez, chimed in with the recommendation of dispatching a “courteous reminder” to St. Thomas Administrator Avery Lewis. This letter’s intent would be to underline the HPC’s vital role in upholding the district’s essence and to cite instances where their role might have been overlooked or bypassed.
In an attempt to clear the air regarding any misunderstandings, Mr. Krigger reminded attendees of the harmonious collaboration between the Administrator’s Office and the HPC. Referring to the contentious issue at hand, he wasn’t entirely sure where the miscommunication had occurred but did recall granting temporary approval for an ice-cream vendor in that location, though it was never activated.
Wrapping up, Mr. Petersen voiced his aspirations for the relocated food truck, emphasizing the importance of supporting brick-and-mortar establishments that contribute significantly to local rent and economy. As the curtains drew on the meeting, Mr. Rodriguez quashed any misconceptions about the HPC’s perceived stringent nature. He robustly defended their position by stating that an impressive 99.5% of applications during that session received the green light, rebuffing the misconception that the HPC plays hardball on approvals.
In the grand scheme of things, this meeting served as a testament to the complexities of balancing heritage preservation, local business interests, and modern entrepreneurial pursuits in a dynamic urban landscape.