Baxter City Council: City considers whether food trucks would take a bite out of tax-paying businesses
Should food trucks be regulated within the city of Baxter?
Tuesday the Baxter City Council considered how to deal with mobile eateries. One of the questions before the council is whether an outside business should be able to bring a food truck into the city on an unlimited basis and compete with local businesses or restaurants.
Prairie Bay restaurant in Baxter recently purchased a mobile food truck. In a letter to the city Prairie Bay noted the food truck, a trend in larger cities, will be an extension of the Baxter restaurant.
Prairie Bay is working with a number of area businesses, which could include the Westgate Mall and Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Baxter Clinic, in order to rotate the food truck to different sites for meals.
Prairie Bay received permits to operate the food truck in Nisswa, Crosslake and Brainerd. The restaurant requested the same type of permit from its hometown, saying modifying a conditional use permit for each site would be cost prohibitive. For Baxter council members, the issue raised questions beyond Prairie Bay.
In the end, the council granted Prairie Bay a temporary license to operate its food truck for three months.
Baxter staff asked for time over the winter to research other food truck ordinances and consider the issues. Options before the city included issuing a peddler’s license to allow a food truck.
Currently, a food truck would be prohibited on city streets or right-of-way without prior written consent from the city council. The food truck could be on public land with permission from the city clerk.
“We tried to come up with a way to accommodate Prairie Bay’s request and not compromise our regulations,” said Bill Deblon, community development director. “It’s our best approach to accommodate Prairie Bay. Staff needs time to develop an ordinance for food trucks, because there is debate now, there are pros and cons.”
Deblon said other restaurants are nervous and wonder about parking regulations and unfair competition.
Staff proposed a possible food truck ordinance for Baxter to allow a food truck in the city as long as it is tied to a restaurant or catering service already in the city and issuing a temporary transient merchant/peddler’s license to Prairie Bay. The license requires Prairie Bay to have permission of the property owner. With an ordinance, the city could set a minimum distance between the food truck and a brick and mortar restaurant.
Council member Todd Holman spoke of concerns for traffic flow and pedestrians in the parking lots.
The council considered whether other restaurants may join Prairie Bay in the food truck business.
“If it’s a good idea for you, it will be a good idea for somebody else,” Holman said, noting that’s why the council had to consider the larger scale.
“I’m OK with it too on a temporary fashion,” said council member Rob Moser, adding it’s imperative the council hears everybody’s view point, including other restaurants in the city, before the final regulation. “Nothing against what you are doing. I think it’s great.”
At the regular council meeting, Prairie Bay reported its mobile kitchen and menu intends to be sensitive and its best intention is not to be in any one place for very long.
“We want to be a good neighbor and we are looking to play fair,” said chef Matt Annand. “Our motive is to help the local community.”
Annand said they just want three months to try it out and the city can see how it works. Annand said they also welcome other food trucks, which will help public awareness about them.
Mayor Darrel Olson said the major concern is unfair competition and people who come in from outside the community and set up in front of a tax-paying local business.
“They are paying taxes,” Olson said of Prairie Bay. “They are not flying through. They are a community member. “