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Brainerd City Council: Food truck ordinance passes

An ordinance governing food trucks in the city of Brainerd is now on the books. In a 5-2 vote, the Brainerd City Council approved the ordinance Monday night, establishing the permitted boundaries, hours of operation and uses. The ordinance covers...

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The ordinance covers all "transient food units," including trailers, wagons, carts and seasonal temporary food stands. The trucks will be allowed to park in eight designated zones, on public and private property in the city, most from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. In the downtown zone, hours of operation allowed are from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Brainerd Dispatch file photo.

An ordinance governing food trucks in the city of Brainerd is now on the books.

In a 5-2 vote, the Brainerd City Council approved the ordinance Monday night, establishing the permitted boundaries, hours of operation and uses.

The ordinance covers all "transient food units," including trailers, wagons, carts and seasonal temporary food stands. The trucks will be allowed to park in eight designated zones, on public and private property in the city, most from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. In the downtown zone, hours of operation allowed are from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.

The trucks will be allowed to sell only food and nonalcoholic beverages and must acquire a license from the city of Brainerd. Operators are not allowed to draw attention to themselves with audible noise or music beyond the unit, nor is exterior lighting permitted. Sales are not permitted within 300 feet of a brick-and-mortar restaurant or bar that serves food or within the same distance from the property perimeter of any festival, sporting event or civic event.

In February, the council directed the planning commission to create an amended ordinance and amend the zoning map to possibly allow for food trucks permanently after a trial period.

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The council extended the trial period in October of 2014 for another six months to end June 30, 2015, to allow for more time to craft the ordinance. One food truck from Prairie Bay Grill participated in the trial period.

Council President Gary Scheeler and council member Kelly Bevans opposed the measure.

"This would be a little bit anti-business," Scheeler said. "One food truck can run around and spoil a lot of areas."

Scheeler said food trucks don't pay taxes, while traditional restaurants do, and the comparisons to Minneapolis's downtown food truck scene were not fair because of the population differences.

Council member Dave Pritschet said food trucks would offer a different experience than traditional restaurants.

"If I'm going to go to any of the cafes or any of the restaurants in Brainerd, it's a sit-down experience for the vast majority of them," Pritschet said. "There's mixed studies on whether they (food trucks) harm or they benefit in the first place. There's nothing particularly conclusive."

Mayor James Wallin, who last meeting said he would veto the ordinance as presented, again expressed opposition to the 300-foot buffer zone, noting he would like the area protected around brick-and-mortar restaurants to be larger. Wallin said he thought it worked well last year and did not need to be expanded to other areas.

"To me, to expand it or allow it in other areas, is not something I would like to see happen," Wallin said.

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Council member Gabe Johnson said he thought 300 feet was too large of a buffer zone.

"Trying to protect existing businesses by stifling competition, stifling any new innovation in our city, is something that could be perceived as anti-business, anti-innovation," Johnson said. "And I think I'm pro-business by allowing food trucks anywhere."

Before passing the ordinance, council members discussed the issue raised by Toni Kaminski Czeczok of Mickey's Pizzas and Subs, who encouraged the city to allow food trucks in city parks to compete with parks and recreation concession stands. Czeczok said traditional restaurants were not afraid of the competition and neither should the city be.

An update to the ordinance presented to council April 6 included a provision allowing food trucks in city parks subject to approval by the city.

Council member Mary Koep said she thought authority to approve the food trucks should lie within the council, rather than the park board.

"I believe the park board would have a conflict of interest," Koep said. "They benefit from not having trucks."

Pritschet said a problem with allowing the competition to go to the city parks was the funds from concessions went to support activities people were visiting the parks to see. He said there was a "nuanced difference" between allowing competition with brick-and-mortar restaurants and with the concession stands, noting it could cause an increase in pricing.

Johnson said allowing the trucks at parks could bring more people to watch games and said it may encourage him to attend all of his nephew's baseball games instead of just some of them.

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"If there were food trucks there, I may go to all of them for dinner," Johnson said. "We can't say it's going to hurt concessions when it may well draw more people."

Johnson suggested the approval requirement be struck from the ordinance, noting licenses would need to be approved by the city anyway. Koep agreed to amend her motion to remove that language from the ordinance.

After the vote, Wallin did not voice additional opposition or move to veto the measure.

A second ordinance amending the zoning map to allow the transient food unit districts was approved by the council unanimously.

A third ordinance related to food trucks, before the council for its first reading, was sent back to staff for further clarification. The ordinance would have set the licensing fees for transient food units, but council members felt there were too many unanswered questions and Mark Ostgarden, city planner, was not present at the meeting to answer them.

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .

Related Topics: BRAINERD
Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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