The City of Roseburg has found itself in a fight with a newly-popular shave ice truck that was serving hundreds of weekend park goers sweet and fruity treats.
Lan Ha, the owner of Wailani, said she handed out about 500 desserts to excited customers during her first day at Stewart Park and had come to an agreement with the city to continue selling throughout the summer.
Ha upped her insurance — as required by the city — prepaid for the entire month of May, set up a payment plan to reserve her spot for the rest of the summer, and starting turning down several summer events in favor of her more permanent location.
Wailani means “heavenly water” in the Hawaiian dialect — an apt name, Lan Ha thought, for th…
But Ha’s dreams of a busy year quickly melted away when the city went back on its word because of an "oversight." Turns out dishing up frozen treats on hot summer afternoons is against city code.
According to Kris Ammerman, the city’s parks manager, the municipal code explicitly restricts “mini-retail businesses” from operating in city parks unless a special event is happening.
“In light of this new information,” Ammerman wrote in an email to Ha, “we will not be able to allow you to continue using Stewart Park as a business location unless you are part of a special event.”
For what it’s worth, when we walked through Stewart Park on the food truck’s opening weekend it definitely felt like a special event. And by reading some of the comments left on Wailani’s Facebook page, most of Ha’s customers felt the same way.
It’s disappointing that such a popular and positive thing in our community has turned into an awkward back-and-forth — especially after the past 18 months. But the good news is that this should be an easy fix.
Change the rule.
Zone changes happen all the time. In fact, the city is considering a zoning map change at its next meeting, so making a simple change that will quell the anger and frustration of thousands of Roseburg residents seems like the obvious path here.
Allowing food trucks in parks isn’t some bold, scary or particularly new undertaking. The City of Eugene’s website seeks out food carts for its parks and says more than 9 million people, who according to the city “love a good cart,” visit the city’s parks annually.
The City of Roseburg is right to hold value in following its own code. Rules, standards and guidelines are important. But when rules become antiquated, impractical or counterproductive, they should be changed — especially if the change would actually help the city move toward fulfilling one of its goals.
Enter the opening verbiage on the city’s parks website: “Our goal is to enrich people’s lives through providing parks and recreation programs and facilities that benefit the quality of life for all Roseburg residents.”
We’d challenge anyone at the city to take a bite of Wailani’s shave ice without feeling enriched.