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Brainerd City Council: Mayor vetoes food truck ordinances

For the second time since being elected as Brainerd mayor in 1998, James Wallin has chosen to use his power of veto. On Thursday, Wallin returned the two ordinances approved by Brainerd City Council Monday night governing "transient food units" -...

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Brainerd mayor James Wallin. Brainerd Dispatch file photo.

For the second time since being elected as Brainerd mayor in 1998, James Wallin has chosen to use his power of veto.

On Thursday, Wallin returned the two ordinances approved by Brainerd City Council Monday night governing "transient food units" - including trucks, trailers, wagons, carts and seasonal temporary food stands - without his signature. Wallin said the ordinances have the potential to damage business for brick-and-mortar restaurant establishments. He also feels the city council usurped the parks and recreation board's authority by allowing food trucks in the parks without requiring board approval.

"The areas we had specified last year for trial purposes worked out well and we really didn't have any complaints," Wallin said in a phone interview Friday. "We need to support our businesses that pay taxes for the establishments."

The new ordinance would expand the areas where food trucks are allowed, including into city parks, and would establish a 300-foot buffer around brick-and-mortar restaurants or bars that serve food. Wallin said this would allow trucks to park too close and siphon business from these establishments.

To overturn the veto by the mayor, the council must again pass both the ordinance outlining the permitted boundaries, hours of operation and uses and the ordinance amending the zoning map with overlay districts with a two-thirds majority, or 5-2. The first ordinance passed 5-2 Monday night, while the second was a unanimous decision.

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Wallin said he would "hate to second guess our seven elected officials," but he would be sending a memo to council members explaining why he vetoed.

Parks and Recreation Director Tony Sailer said the parks and recreation board is set to discuss the council's actions on food trucks at its meeting Tuesday. Sailer said he is consulting the city attorney to determine whether an ordinance passed by city council would override the board's authority to decide what is or is not allowed in city parks. Sailer said the board did not provide input into the crafting of the ordinance and they have only briefly discussed the issue at one other meeting.

The parks and recreation department currently operates concession stands during park events, the proceeds of which go to support department activities.

Parks and recreation board member Dale Parks said he agreed with the mayor's perspective and felt the board "should and probably does have the right to allow or not allow (food trucks)."

Parks said he is in favor of allowing food trucks to operate in the parks.

"The concern was whether or not they would cause a problem with concession stands, but I don't think that really would cause much of a problem as long as the park board was able to control the locations," Parks said by phone Friday.

The units would 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 would be allowed from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. The other designated zones are: west Brainerd, the county government center, the Northern Pacific Center, the intersection of Highways 18 and 25, the Brainerd Industrial Park, Central Lakes College and the Franklin Art Center parking lot. The truck proprietors would need to provide written permission from a property owner to the city to park on private property.

The trucks would be allowed to sell only food and nonalcoholic beverages and must acquire a license from the city of Brainerd. Operators would not allowed to draw attention to themselves with audible noise or music beyond the unit, nor is exterior lighting permitted. Sales would 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. This includes whether the restaurant is open or closed, city administrator Patrick Wussow said.

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The other time Wallin vetoed was in 2009, when he said an ordinance disallowing the roasting of coffee beans in the neighborhood business district was too restrictive. A new ordinance containing the same language passed council in a 5-2 vote.

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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