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Brainerd council to consider fewer food truck restrictions

The request for consideration came from Community Development Director David Chanski, who said he has gotten a lot of inquiries about food trucks over the summer and concerns from food truck owners that Brainerd’s ordinance is too restrictive for them to operate.

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Food units at 2019 Crow Wing County Fair. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Are Brainerd’s food truck regulations too restrictive, or are they strict enough?

Proposed changes to how food trucks are allowed to operate in the city will be up for discussion during the Brainerd City Council’s next meeting.

The issue was a last-minute addition to the agenda for the council’s meeting Monday, July 20, but council members agreed they needed more time before making any decisions.

The request came from Community Development Director David Chanski, who said he has gotten a lot of inquiries about food trucks over the summer and concerns from food truck owners that Brainerd’s ordinance is too restrictive for them to operate.

Earlier in July the council approved a request from the owners of All Fried Up food truck to operate in the old Papa John’s parking lot, even though that property is not part of the overlay district established for food trucks. Since then, Chanski said he got a request from a food truck to operate in the parking lot of Cub Foods. Right now, he said the answer is “no” because even if the parking lot was in the designated district, it is fewer than 300 feet away from nearby restaurants, which is also against the city’s code.

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City code allows food trucks to operate in certain areas around west Brainerd, the county government center, downtown, the Northern Pacific Center, the intersection of highways 18 and 25, Brainerd Industrial Park, Central Lakes College and the Franklin Arts Center.

Chanski proposed the council put a moratorium on the food truck ordinance through the rest of the year to allow more trucks to operate in the city.

“With the cancellation of the State Fair and pretty much every county and local fair, food trucks are out and about and trying to find places to operate. A lot of these food trucks have big followings. They bring people to the communities of which they’re a part. I think there’s an opportunity here for the city of Brainerd,” Chanski told the safety and public works committee prior to Monday’s council meeting.

Food trucks would still have to apply for a city permit, would only be allowed to operate on private property with permission from owners — or in city parks with permission from the parks board — and undergo a fire inspection.

Of the three members of the safety and public works committee, Jan Lambert and Wayne Erickson originally said they supported the proposal. Chairman Kelly Bevans, however, did not, citing concerns about fewer food truck restrictions hurting tax-paying restaurants in the city.

“I don’t think these bring anything to the community,” Bevans said.

He said the city would go from an ordinance that is maybe too restrictive to laissez-faire.

He added he might be more in favor of fewer restrictions if food truck owners had to pay larger fees to the city.

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Lambert said if the city is allowing restaurants to expand into the streets, they should show some leniency to food trucks as well. She made a motion to suspend the ordinance but add back in hours of operation to appease some of Bevans’ concerns.

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Stars and Stripes Days in Pequot Lakes this year. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Erickson, however, was swayed by Bevans’ point about hurting tax-paying restaurants and said he struggled with the matter.

As time ran out on the committee meeting, the motion died, and the discussion carried over into the following council meeting. At that time, Erickson said he sided with Bevans, as his heart was with the brick and mortar restaurants who pay property taxes and have already suffered the last few months with the pandemic.

Council President Gabe Johnson said he felt the overlay district in the ordinance was too restrictive to begin with and would be in favor of a moratorium.

Council members Dave Pritschet, Tad Erickson and Kevin Stunek said they were not in favor of a moratorium on the ordinance but were willing to revisit the restrictions.

Mayor Dave Badeaux agreed the restrictions should be lightened and said he knows of Brainerd residents who are interested in opening food trucks, so new laws may not just benefit people outside the community.

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Bevans said the safety and public works committee will happily consider fewer restrictions with more time for discussion. The item will be on the agenda Aug. 1.

In other business Monday, the council:

Approved a quote from Anderson Brothers Construction for street patching projects at a cost of $50,000.

Refunded the Brainerd School District $20,000 for the 2019-20 school resource officer contract, as the officer was not needed when school was not in session during distance learning. The city will use COVID-19 relief funds to reimburse the cost. Johnson opposed the measure, as the $75,000 contract covers a school resource officer at the high school for up to 173 days and not necessarily the full 173 days.

Approved a conditional use permit request from Joel and Grace Jacobsen for outdoor storage of landscaping materials on the 3400 block of Oak Street.

Authorized staff to submit a request for proposal for zoning code update services. As part of the 2020 budget, the council allocated $50,000 in capital improvement funds to update the city’s zoning code.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.
Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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