New Ordinance Language Streamlines Permitting for Food Trucks, Limits Their Numbers

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The City of Saline hopes to streamline permit applications for food trucks while tweaking ordinance language to prevent local parking lots from turning into food truck rallies.

By a 7-0 vote, Saline City Council voted to approve ordinance #830 and add it to existing city code. The ordinance was drafted by the city's Code Review Task Force and recommended by Assistant City Manager Mike Greene.

Greene told council the city was trying to solve several issues. For one, the city wanted to speed up the process for permitting food trucks. The ordinance allows a property owner to apply for one-year permits for food trucks that may then operate on the property during that year.

But while the city wants to allow people to take advantage of all the yummy goodness that comes with food trucks, they also don't want to allow so many that they begin to impact the business of the tax-paying brick-and-mortar restaurants who also tend to employ more residents. 

"We want to keep things competitive for the brick and mortar businesses that are part of the lifeblood of this city," said Councillor Dean Girbach. "People like food trucks, but they aren't paying for the roads and sewers and everything else in our city."

In that spirit, another thing the ordinance does is limit the number of food trucks in a parking lot. If a business has 100 parking spaces or less, it can apply to the city for up to two food trucks. They are allowed one additional unit per 100 spaces.

So, for example, a business with 405 parking spaces could maintain up to five mobile food vending units.

In the case of a shopping plaza, the city would grant permits to businesses on a first-come, first-serve basis Greene said. The actual property owner would need to approve the permit. The permits are good for a year.

Councillor Janet Dillon said she had some concern about allowing a food truck to park in a lot for a year.

"It's basically becoming like a brick and mortar that's not paying (taxes). I'd like to see us have better guidance so that maybe they are only there for two days a week and eight hours a day, or whatever it is," Dillon said.

She said one mobile food vendor has been parked in perpetuity, which she didn't think was fair to the brick and mortar restaurants.

Greene said he'd look into that issue.

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I agree with the restrictions. While the city is trying in many ways to help our businesses, it appears the food wagons are taking the cream off the top with very little revenue to Saline's wellbeing.

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