Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 16, 2013

Food trucks on a roll into downtown TC

By BRIAN McGILLIVARY
bmcgillivary@record-eagle.com

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Food trucks likely will roll into downtown Traverse City for breakfast, lunch and dinner but an early curfew will curtail service for the late-night crowd.

The city commission agreed to schedule an ordinance for a May 6 vote that allows up to two mobile food vendors in four downtown city parking lots and on State Street between Union and Pine streets. Monday's preliminary action established the parameters of the ordinance, including an 11 p.m. curfew on food vending. But it also showed the controversial ordinance appears to have the votes needed to pass.

Commissioners Jim Carruthers, Mike Gillman and Mary Ann Moore spent six months taking comment and working out a compromise that all sides could stomach.

"We did struggle with this," Moore said. "We had very strong support from citizens to get this on a roll, and strong opposition from downtown merchants."

The pressure continued Monday with residents and vendors speaking in favor of free enterprise and more choices while restaurant owners spoke in opposition.

"If you allow one vendor on a public (space), ... this city will become one never-ending carnival," said Nicholas deBoer, owner of Cousin Jenny's Gourmet Cornish Pasties.

Food vendor Simon Joseph, who operates Roaming Harvest, cited surveys and petitions to demonstrate people want food vendors downtown.

"The public is overwhelmingly in favor," Joseph said.

The proposed ordinance allows a vendor to pay an annual fee of $1,225 to park on city property or $725 for private property. No more than two vendors would be allowed at any location downtown or in residential areas. The downtown spots besides State Street include the parking lots near: the volleyball courts; farmers market; Union Street dam, and behind the U.S. Post Office.

The ordinance also will open up some streets in other areas near Northwestern Michigan College, the Civic Center, Munson Medical Center, and some of the city’s larger parks.

Some commissioners objected to allowing vendors to park on State Street but the majority wanted to use it to test a downtown street location. The ordinance will be reviewed in December to see how it works.

The commission and several members of the public objected to hours that varied by location in the downtown. Vendors could operate from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in residential areas under the proposed ordinance and from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. in commercial areas.

"That just killed our business," said John Welburn, whose son operated a food truck that catered to the late night crowd.