Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 13, 2013

Food trucks in townships?

By BRIAN McGILLIVARY bmcgillivary@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Food truck owners don’t want to park only in Traverse City. They’re also looking for opportunities to roll into surrounding townships.

Township zoning rules thus far have undermined much of the potential food truck sizzle because most, if not all of the townships in Grand Traverse County and beyond don’t allow food trucks. Food trucks aren’t listed as an allowed use in Garfield, East Bay, Acme, Blair, or Peninsula Township, nor in Elmwood Township in Leelanau County.

General zoning rules hold that if a use is not allowed, it’s banned.

“I doubt if any of the townships have any regulations for food trucks,” said Grand Traverse County Planner John Sych. “It’s kind of a new phenomena, imported from other cities that has shown up in Traverse City.”

Garfield Township took its last food truck operator, a hot dog stand owner, to court to shut him down. But most township officials said the topic hadn’t come up until now.

Nikki Lennox, Acme Township’s zoning administrator, reported to the board that she received numerous inquiries from food truck vendors who are interested in setting up in Acme Township. Several of those want to operate in the parking lot of the township’s newest microbrewery, Bravo Zulu Brewing.

Bravo Zulu on U.S. 31 across from Acme’s expanded shoreline park will open in July but it won’t sell food, said owner Jeff Brooks.

“I like the idea,” Brooks said of a food truck parked in his lot. “It affects my business in a positive way because it keeps people here instead of going somewhere else to eat.”

Acme Supervisor Jay Zollinger said the township board asked for more information before committing to food trucks.

“Nobody showed any opposition,” Zollinger said. “I think we are interested, but we want more detail before evaluating it, we want more meat on the bone.”

Other townships have also taken note of the growing interest and several expect to address it in the near future.

“We haven’t been approached, but it might be coming,” said Leslie Couturier, East Bay Township zoning administrator. “I think I’ll put it on the agenda for our next planning commission meeting.”

Two of the city’s more active downtown vendors, Simon Joseph of Roaming Harvest and Brian Welburn of King Wubz Pita Dubz, said they have heard talk about Acme, but they’re keeping busy in the city.

“I’ve been working 16-hour days for two weeks now,” Welburn said.