Norm Thomson preps dough for a pizza at his truck in Machias on May 22.

Machias Food Truck Marketplace to live on at new site

MACHIAS — A gathering spot for families, craftsmen, musicians and food trucks narrowly escaped closing by making plans to move to a parking area along the Centennial Trail.

Six months after opening, organizers of the Machias Food Truck Marketplace feared they would have to shut it down. County code doesn’t allow for a permanent food truck hub on agricultural land. The marketplace is at the site of a former nursery on South Machias Road.

Code enforcement officers gave the property owner a July deadline to have food trucks off the land. In turn, the property owner told the food truck owner who started the marketplace to clear out by Wednesday.

Locals rallied at a recent County Council meeting to support the marketplace. County employees and leaders stepped in to find a way for the hangout to stay open.

The marketplace is expected to move to the Centennial Trail parking area at the Machias trailhead around June 20, market director Una Wirkebau announced Friday. It’s unclear if that will be a permanent location, but it gives marketplace and county leaders a chance to see how well the Centennial Trail works as a food truck hub.

Food trucks are allowed in Snohomish County but usually are part of temporary events, according to county planners. They must meet Snohomish Health District standards. However, county code does not specifically address food trucks.

Norm Thomson, who owns Papa’s Woodfire Pizza with his wife, Margie, started the marketplace in November. The Thomsons live near the former nursery and saw that the land was for lease. He called Wirkebau, who was the director of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce at the time.

“Light bulbs were just going off,” Thomson said. “I was thinking we could have farmers markets and food trucks and all sorts of stuff.”

He put in a horseshoe pit, a stage and a fire pit. The marketplace was the spot for an Easter egg hunt, St. Patrick’s Day celebration and Mother’s Day mimosas. There’s live music Saturdays.

On sunny weekends, a couple dozen people hang out all day, Thomson said.

“They bring their own blankets, they bring their own s’mores,” he said. “It’s become a huge gathering place.”

Thomson is there with his pizza truck every day except Monday. Three or four other food trucks join him on the weekends.

Food trucks that stay at a location for a short period of time don’t stir up much trouble with code enforcement, Wirkebau said. The Machias marketplace was meant to be permanent and officials took notice.

“We’re making a buzz because people like being here but it’s technically totally illegal,” she said.

Five people, including Wirkebau and Margie Thomson, spoke at a council hearing on May 18. They urged the council to review the code and add language to address food trucks.

Councilmembers want to have a more in-depth conversation about temporary food trucks versus permanent set-ups. They agreed that the marketplace sounds like a good endeavor, but codes and zoning could be tricky.

Councilman Hans Dunshee and Parks and Recreation director Tom Teigen met with Wirkebau and Thomson for about two hours Friday afternoon. They agreed to try relocating the marketplace to the trailhead. That means limitations regarding alcohol or pets, which are allowed off-leash at the current marketplace. However, it also means better access and more visibility for the market.

“It’s a great idea. It was a bad location,” Councilman Hans Dunshee said Friday. “I think we can get this so that it’s better for the vendors and customers. It’ll be a great addition to our parks … I think we’ve got a solution.”

There still are details that need to be ironed out, but moving could be a win-win, Wirkebau said. The trail would draw business to the food trucks and the food trucks might entice people to spend more time on the trail.

Though the plan solves the imminent threat of having to close the market, it doesn’t solve the bigger problem in county regulations, Wirkebau said. She still hopes the council will review their codes and add rules for food trucks.

“I think the problem still needs to be solved,” she said. “I think we still need to go down that path.”

For more information about the Machias Food Truck Marketplace, visit machiasfoodtruckmarketplace.com.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

Norm Thomson prepares to slice a pizza at his truck in Machias on May 22. Thomson operates Papa’s Woodfire Pizza at the Machias Food Truck Marketplace, which will soon relocate to a parking area on the Centennial Trail after nearly being forced to close because of county code.

Norm Thomson, of Papa’s Woodfire Pizza in the Machias Food Truck Marketplace, says the site has become a popular gathering place. A recent decision will enable the marketplace to stay open at a new location near the Centennial Trail.

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