Baxter agrees to extend food truck trial
BAXTER — Prairie Bay’s food truck will be able to continue to operate in Baxter.
The council previously approved a trail period for Prairie Bay’s food truck, which ended with 2013. Council consensus Tuesday during a work session was to continue the trial period while the city continues to work on a mobile vending ordinance.
Nick Miller, Prairie Bay general manager, said once spring weather arrives in earnest with 50 degree days, the goal was to have the food truck again available in the community.
Miller said the food truck found a good niche parking at farmers’ markets and found great success in the spring and early summer. As Prairie Bay the restaurant became more busy in the summer, the focus was more toward the work there and catering business.
Miller said they are looking forward to another good year with the food truck if it gets to be springtime. Prairie Bay is working on the marketing aspect with a website calendar. From their end, Miller said, they are not worried about competition and it’s just as important to them everyone does it right.
As for the ordinance, Administrator Gordon Heitke said the city continues to get inquiries from other mobile vendors. Baxter noted the recent approval in Brainerd for a food trailer.
Mayor Darrel Olson said some of the fever pitch of early discussions, including concerns from brick-and-mortar businesses, seems to have died down during the trial periods.
Council member Todd Holman said he hasn’t heard a single negative comment regarding Prairie Bay. Holman said he was opposed to the off-the-road sales in trucks of everything from tires to flowers and watermelons. He said the food truck traffic often comes from workers who don’t have a long lunch break and are able to walk to the truck. Holman said having food trucks parked in the public right-of-way or parks is something the city wanted to curtail unless allowed by permit as streets and traffic patterns were not built for that function. Holman said vendors would also take up parking spaces next to parks, which isn’t the use the space was designated to handle.
Council member Jim Klein said he could imagine permits and then 15 to 20 vehicles selling popcorn or candy and asked how the city enforces keeping the number vendors to a specific number.
Event organizers determine how many food vendors are needed and they are typically not parked in the lot taking up spaces but are pulled into the park for the activity such as baseball tournaments.
Heitke said the city hasn’t allowed vendors on public property.
A question before the council was whether to restrict the vendors to those who have a brick-and-mortar community presence like Prairie Bay.
“I have struggled from day one with this whole subject,” Olson said, adding his perspective would be to link the food vendor to a brick-and-mortar building but was told that was selfish.
Holman said allowing it in a commercial setting seemed more sustainable and he wanted vendors to be self-contained so they wouldn’t be dumping leftover product or supplies into the street drains. He said he could also envision safety concerns if people were tripping over power cords. Holman said having vendors at the Fourth of July or Arts in the Park and other events isn’t a bad thing.
Holman said he’s in favor of treating everyone fairly, for a code and being consistent.
Options on mobile vending, referring to food trucks, trailers, stands or booths, wagons and carts, included:
• Not allowing them at all.
• Allowing them as an accessory to a restaurant within a specified distance of Baxter.
• Allow mobile vending without a link to a physical restaurant presence but regulating applications based on type of property, pre-selected locations, certain zoning districts, allow based on distance from restaurants, residential property, schools.
• Allow mobile vending with limited or no regulations.
Other regulations the city may consider include hours of operation, lighting, seating, trash, signs, whether drive-through is allowed.