By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Some of the leftover crumbs from the food truck discussions were tidied up by Bowling Green City Council Committee of the Whole Monday evening.
The ordinance allowing food trucks to operate in the city will be ready for City Council to vote on at its next meeting.
The decisions made Monday evening favored making the ordinance the least restrictive as possible – with the understanding that if a problem occurs, council will then handle the issue.
But council member Bill Herald, who was head of the committee tackling the food truck issue, brought up several issues that weren’t addressed in the ordinance, just to make sure they should not be included.
In most cases, the Committee of the Whole preferred to keep the recipe for food trucks as simple as possible. For example:
Trucks in the downtown area
Herald noted that the ordinance did not require food trucks in the downtown area to have “visibility triangles.” Council member Sandy Rowland reminded that the goal was to “keep the regulations as free as possible. Those are things we can change as we live through the implementation.”
Council president Mike Aspacher agreed that council can “adjust as needed,” when problems arise.
If a food truck were to park in an unsafe location, the city will discuss the problem, Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter said. The city has a history of working with people and coming up with solutions that are agreeable. “We really do try to employ diplomacy,” she said.
Hours and days of operation
Herald pointed out that the ordinance does not limit food trucks to certain days or hours of operation. Aspacher said the city’s goal is to not place such limits. “My feeling is we should not do so,” he said.
Council members Rowland and Bruce Jeffers agreed.
Several food vendors have attended city meetings to explain that they only set up on days and times when they can get plenty of customers.
Appeals process for those opposed to food trucks
The proposed ordinance allows food vendors to appeal if their permit request is denied. However, there is no appeal process for the public if the permit request is granted, Herald said. This addition would allow more freedom to the process, he said. Jeffers agreed.
However, Aspacher and Rowland saw no need for the appeal language.
“I just feel this is unnecessary,” Aspacher said.
Rowland pointed out that the city doesn’t allow the public to appeal other businesses in the community. “I don’t know why we should do it with a mobile vendor,” she said.
Herald suggested there would be no harm in adding the appeal provision, but Aspacher stressed that there was no need to complicate the ordinance.
Since the issue was at a stand-off, the topic was brought up again during the regular council meeting Monday evening to get more input from other council members. Both Daniel Gordon and Greg Robinette agreed that the appeal language was not needed.
Food trucks in residential areas
Mobile vendors will be able to park on public streets in neighborhoods. So Herald asked if some restrictions be placed in residential areas. Rowland said she couldn’t imagine a food truck parking in a neighborhood to do business. “If it happens and it’s a problem, we can go back,” she said.
Food trucks in parking lots
Herald mentioned that the city administration is “handcuffed” by the proposed ordinance, since it doesn’t allow food trucks in city parking lots – and there is no provision to give the city authority to permit that. The council members present all agreed that is a problem, and Tretter said it would be corrected by the next meeting.
Also at the meeting, Jeffers asked how much the city would charge for a food truck permit. He mentioned that some brick and mortar business owners have voiced complaints about their expenses compared to mobile units.
The fees have been defined as the amount needed to cover administrative costs. Amounts such as $125 for the permit, and $100 for a litter deposit have been mentioned.
“We need to keep in mind, if we charge too much, they just won’t do it,” Rowland said.
A lot of mobile vendors become brick and mortar business owners, after trying out their products on the streets, she said. A new barbecue restaurant that started out as a food truck is coming to a Bowling Green storefront in August, Rowland said.
“This is a way of attracting economic development to Bowling Green,” she added.
Both Aspacher and Rowland agreed that the litter deposits are unnecessary. “To assume they are going to make a mess is unfair,” Rowland said.
Phil Barone, who has owned Rosie’s Italian Grille in Toledo for 36 years and has a food truck, explained that Toledo currently charges $50, and Perrysburg charges $100. “I beg that you don’t go above that,” he said, noting the extra costs of bringing food trucks to Bowling Green.
Barone said he is looking forward to notifying other mobile vendors that Bowling Green is open for business. “Food trucks will come,” he said.
In Perrysburg, the food trucks have brought many more people to the weekly farmers market.
“They saw a new clientele to buy produce,” once the mobile vendors came, Barone said. “Food trucks do bring people.”
Al Alvord, a retired Bowling Green police officer who has a hot dog cart, thanked City Council for its work on creating the food truck ordinance. He is interested in setting up one or two days a week between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
“I would encourage you to keep the fees as low as possible,” Alvord advised, adding that he doesn’t have to pay any fee in Napoleon, and just $35 a month at a state park where he sells his dogs.
Mel Stimmel, owner of Stimmel’s Market, said the food truck ordinance has been a long time coming.
“Government never acts fast. We’ve been waiting for this 15 years,” Stimmel said. “See you on the streets.”