Traverse City Record-Eagle

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February 16, 2013

DDA may take up to 60 days for food-truck decision

TRAVERSE CITY — Downtown Development Authority officials will take up to 60 days to arrive at a recommendation about where food trucks belong in the downtown district.

Board members on Friday rejected a proposal proffered by members John Di Giacomo and Leah McCallum-Bagdon that supported allowing mobile food units anywhere downtown, except along Front Street between Boardman and Union, and within 20 feet of any intersection.

Instead, the board adopted a second option from Vice Chair Chuck Judson to take up to 60 days to study the possibilities and come back with a recommendation for the city commission.

"I don't think we have one answer right now," Judson said.

He later added, "There are a number of aspects that we think need to be analyzed and given some consideration. I think where we have to go with this is to say, 'Food trucks are a part of the culture that we have today and how do we fit them into downtown — not whether, but how'?"

The city hopes to have a new mobile food vending ordinance in time for the summer tourist season. Jim Carruthers, chair of a city committee that is studying the matter, attended Friday's DDA meeting and told the board that while the DDA's opinion is welcome, it's not essential.

He expressed concern for food truck owners and others who are waiting to see how the new ordinance shapes up before they make their summer business plans.

"We can take your recommendation or we don't need to," he said, noting that the committee meets next on Feb. 26.

After the meeting, Carruthers indicated openness to the DDA's taking more time to deliberate. He also said alternative locations to the main business district could be possible — Pine Street, E. State and E. Front among them.

"Sixty days isn't that long," Carruthers said. "I don't want to spend 60 days and have them just say no."

Representatives of downtown businesses, as well as food truck owner Simon Joseph also attended Friday's meeting. Cindy Warner, owner of J&S Hamburg downtown, said the DDA's move to give the recommendation more time and research made sense.

Joseph said his "media team" would release a statement in response to the DDA's move. A post at the TC Street Food Facebook page supporting Traverse City's mobile food scene indicated disappointment with the DDA's decision.

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