An new ordinance banning food trucks in downtown Saline failed at the city council table Monday night.
Food trucks have become a more common site in the City of Saline in recent years. Stony Lake Brewery, which does not have a kitchen, often has a food truck outside. The Saline Farmers Market also had a food truck when it was located at the Rentschler Farm.
The city’s code review task force began discussing food trucks late in 2017. The proposed an ordinance that would the food trucks in some areas, like shopping center or industrial parking lots, but not others, like residential neighborhoods and the downtown district. The ordinance would also have allowed food trucks on city property or public streets if grated by city council resolution. It also included a series of regulations for operation and established a licensing scheme. Fees for a food truck would have been $150 a year, or $50 a month, plus an original application fee of $50.
City Attorney Scott Smith said there were concerns that food trucks should be allowed, but regulated. He also said there was a desire to protect downtown restaurants from the possibility of food trucks parking downtown.
Councillor Janet Dillon questioned why the city felt downtown businesses needed special protection?
“How is that determined and why?” Dillon sasked.
Mayor Pro-Tem Linda TerHaar, who serves on the code review task force, there was a concern that food trucks downtown would “unfairly” compete with existing businesses.
Attorney Smith said there are other concerns in the downtown area.
“Food trucks take up more parking. They’re wider and longer. Also, people congregate around food trucks and that can impede traffic on sidewalks,” Smith said. “Third, you have competing businesses who’ve made extensive investments and who pay property taxes.”
Councillor Dillon asked why a food truck wouldn’t be allowed at a private downtown parking lot, like Key Bank’s.
“I’m having a hard time blocking downtown out. To say they compete with businesses, the restaurants compete with each other,” Dillon said. “Food trucks draw crowds. They could be used at so many events downtown and be beneficial to the community.”
Councillors Dean Girbach and Heidi McCLelland also had difficulty approving an ordinance that protected restaurants in one part of town, but not another.
Mayor Brian Marl called for a vote. Marl, TerHaar and Councillor Christen Mitchell voted in favor of the motion. Councillors Dillon, McClelland and Girbach were against.
The motion failed in a 3-3 vote. Councilllor Jack Ceo was absent.
Mayor Marl went to work to build consensus for an ordinance that would be supported by the majority of council. Council appeared to agree it would allow food trucks downtown - but only in private parking lots, or by council decree during special events.
The city attorney’s office is expected to redraft the ordinance for consideration at the March 19 meeting.