Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 6, 2013

Last call for food vendors ordinance

TRAVERSE CITY — A vote on allowing food trucks in Traverse City's downtown likely will dominate debate at tonight's city commission meeting, despite a public hearing on the city's proposed $30 million operating budget.

City residents have shown little appetite for discussing the proposed budget, but the debate on mobile food vendors has yet to cool. Commissioners continue to get peppered by emails and personal contacts from constituents and business owners about the proposed ordinance they will vote on today when they meet at 7 p.m. in the Governmental Center.

"The timing of this will keep anyone from thinking about the budget," Commissioner Mike Gillman said. "They are definitely more interested in (food vendors)."

The proposed budget reflects inflationary increases, some extra money for road projects, and no program cuts or lay-offs. Commissioners consider it a flat, maintenance budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The food truck ordinance would allow up to two mobile food vendors to operate from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. in four city parking lots near the downtown and on State Street between Union and Pine streets. A vendor would pay an annual fee of $1,225 to park on city property or $725 for private property. The ordinance also would open some streets in other areas near Northwestern Michigan College, the Civic Center, Munson Medical Center, and some of the city’s larger parks.

Downtown business owners have led the opposition; they've asked commissioners for protection from what they consider unfair competition.

"If ticky-tacky street vendors of any kind are allowed, then we will have done well in devaluing our city," wrote Nick and Jerilyn deBoer, owners of Cousin Jenny's Cornish Pasties, in a letter to commissioners. "We will surely be the shoddy, carnival our visitors see when they drive down the tunnel of trash, which makes up U.S. 31 North.

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