Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 21, 2013

DDA board green-lights food trucks in certain areas

BY KATHY GIBBONS kgibbons@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The Downtown Development Authority is recommending that limited numbers of food trucks be permitted to use three designated city-owned parking lots in a pilot effort this summer.

The DDA board voted 7 to 3 Wednesday to approve a recommendation suggested in part by downtown restaurant owner Dave Denison and presented by DDA Executive Director Bryan Crough. The proposal calls for no more than two food trucks operating at each of the following city parking lots: RB, next to the volleyball courts on the waterfront; J, adjacent to Lay Park; and B, which is where the downtown farmers market is held, though trucks could not operate while the farmers market or other events with city permits are in progress there.

Mobile food vendors would be able to use the lots on a first-come, first-serve basis. Suggested hours of operation would be 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. for the volleyball and farmers market lots, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. for Lay Park, where the DDA is also recommending that food carts be permitted to operate. The farmers market lot wasn’t originally included in the recommendation, but was added before the board voted.

“Of the three lots, Lot B is the most heavily used, and of course, wasn’t included in my recommendation for that reason,” Crough said. “But it also is a highly visible lot, it has the tradition of the farmers market there and the board felt it was a good thing.”

The DDA proposal also calls for food trucks operating on private property to receive discounts on annual permit fees, and recommends hours of operation from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. This measure originally included a provision that bathrooms be provided by the owners of private property where food trucks would be located. However, the board excluded that requirement, stipulating only that trash pickup, pedestrian safety and adhering to the city’s noise ordinance should be the owners’ responsibility.

Some on the board as well as members of the downtown business community have not been in favor of allowing food trucks on public property within the DDA district. DDA board members Mike Kelly, Bill Golden and Rick Korndorfer voted against the measure.

“You are taking public property and allowing private business to profit at the expense of the individuals that are down there year round,” Korndorfer said. “I do not support this.”

However, Traverse City Mayor Michael Estes made it clear before the vote that making a recommendation to reject food trucks downtown outright would be futile.

“I would say that this a compromise between what I see as two very diverse sides on this issue,” Estes said. “And I will tell you that if you come back to the city commission with a recommendation that says no, the city commission isn’t even going to consider your recommendation.”

Simon Joseph, owner of Roaming Harvest food truck and member of TC Street Food, which supports local food trucks, attended the meeting and was encouraged by the proposals.

“I think it’s kind of a movement in the right direction,” he said.

The Traverse City Commission had asked the DDA to come up with a recommendation regarding where, if anywhere, food trucks should be allowed within the downtown district. The commission’s Transient Merchant Ad Hoc Committee, charged with developing criteria for food vending in the city, meets next Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. Members hope to come up with a broader recommendation that also covers areas outside of the DDA to bring to the commission in April, said committee Chair Jim Carruthers.

“I’m encouraged that 70 percent of the DDA Board supported a compromise or solution that supports food trucks rather than just say no,” Carruthers said. “Our committee will look at this, and will make the final decision.

“But this encourages the ability to have them in the downtown area, which is what most of the food truck community wants, is to be located where the population works,” he said.