Traverse City Record-Eagle

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January 24, 2014

Editorial: Evolving food truck rules could burnish foodie image

Year one of Traverse City’s experiment with food trucks has come and gone without the most dire consequences predicted by those who worried the trucks would harm the city’s growing food industry.

That’s due at least in part to the go-slow approach taken by the city in opening public and private property to the trucks. There was plenty of opposition to letting food trucks into the downtown area, mostly from established restaurants worried the trucks, which don’t pay property taxes or the other costs associated with brick-and-mortar businesses, would siphon away business.

But the city took a long time to listen to both sides and to examine how the issue has played out elsewhere. The ordinance approved by the city commission limited the number of places the trucks could set up shop and the number of trucks. Though the trucks appeared to do substantial business last summer, it wasn’t a stampede away from established restaurants. There appeared to be a balance.

This week the trucks were given the green light to expand their reach into the very market that has made food trucks successful here and around the country - upwardly mobile 20-somethings looking for eating-out options, new menus and hours that fit their lifestyle.

The city agreed to allow food truck vendors to operate from 6 a.m. to 3 a.m. on private property in commercial areas. The change will allow vendors more time to set up in the morning to catch early commuters and to stay open late at night to snag the bar crowd.

The changes elicited little comment, but that was due at least in part to the time of year. Elizabeth Whelan is president of the Boardman Neighborhood Association which abuts the bar Little Fleet at East Front and Wellington streets. Little Fleet was home to a number of food trucks last year, and is the spot most likely to see problems from the extended hours.

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