The Boyne City Planning Department presented the first reading of a proposed ordinance dealing with mobile food vendors last week.
Boyne City Assistant Planner Annie Doyle presented the Boyne City Commission with the proposed language following months of community discussion, several informational meetings and work by city staff on how best to handle the issue of food trucks and related businesses within city limits.
“To briefly summarize, the proposed ordinance language allows for mobile food vending on private property, in areas zoned for restaurants and in four designated public property locations,” Doyle said during the Boyne City Commission meeting of Tuesday May 13. “As a result of public comment from the last city commission meeting, city staff has also included in the language a 50-foot setback from operating restaurants within designated areas.”
She added, “Other highlights of the proposed language include hours of operating from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; the requirement that all food vendors provide appropriate waste receptacle(s) and be responsible for their own debris; and that they not be allowed to use any flashing or blinking lights, noise or other music to gain attention; additionally, the ordinance requires that the mobile food vendors not have any signs, other than what is affixed to the vending unit; that utilities will not be utilized by the vendor without written consent; and that each vendor provides proof of liability insurance.”
A proposed schedule of permit fees is as follows:
$25 – for all applicants
$840 – permit fee for operating on public and private locations
$420 – permit fee for operating on private property only
No fee – for mobile food vendors operating in conjunction with community events; and for businesses that operate a restaurant on the city’s tax rolls
According to Doyle, the permit fee for operating on public and private locations is based on the daily average of the annual property tax burden of six businesses divided by the potential number of days a mobile food vendor may operate on an annual basis.
According to planning department officials, the six businesses were chosen at random from the Central Business District and their average tax burden was $5,106. The $5,106 figure was then divided by 365 days for a total of $14 per day.
Assuming that a food truck operates five days per week during the peak summer months of June, July and August, that equals 60 days of operational time at $14 per day for a total fee of $840.
The fee for mobile food vendors who operate on private property was figured at half the cost of the full fee for a total of $420.
“A lot of effort went into developing these ordinances. A lot of communication with the public, a lot of listening prior to developing them,” said Boyne City Planning Director Scott McPherson. “I think they’re comprehensive. I think they’re good. Are they perfect? Probably not. I don’t think any ordinance is and once they’re adopted they can be refined as necessary.”
Gayle Harbaugh, owner of Kilwin’s of Boyne City said the 50-foot setback would not protect her business from an ice-cream truck operating nearby.
Boyne City Mayor Ron Grunch said the commission will take any concerns about the proposal into consideration before it finalizes anything.
Mike McCaig, owner of Thick ‘N Juicy restaurant, said 50 feet from the front of his door is to the center of the road in front of his establishment.
“Ninety-three feet would give me a safe buffer from having somebody directly across from me,” he said.
Brian Freund, owner of Brian’s Ice Cream Experience, which is a mobile vending business, said he doesn’t feel like he’s true competition because he can only make 150 scoops of ice-cream per day.
“What I hope to come out of this is to allow the ice-cream people a little more leeway because we’re not really food trucks,” he said. “And I really can’t imagine that I would put a dent in anybody’s ice-cream sales this summer. I’m sure there’s enough ice-cream sales for all of us.”
Shelley Bush, who said in a recent meeting she intends to operate a mobile food vending business, suggested designating a day each week to bring attention to mobile food vendors. She also asked if the fee schedule could offer half-year and quarterly rates; she also asked which city entity would receive the money for the permit fees.
Bush also said she feels there should be a designated area, like a city park, for the food trucks.
Bush said she put nearly $40,000 into her mobile food vending trailer. She said that, unlike brick and mortar businesses, her mobile vending business will only depreciate in value.
Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Baumann said he felt the proposed ordinance language may need a little tweaking but is good overall.
Two other downtown business owners said they feel the ordinance is fair.
Boyne City Commissioner Tom Neidhamer asked Doyle how planners arrived at the setback of 50 feet.
Doyle said they had considered three different setbacks—50, 100 and 150 feet—and that the 50-foot number was a good starting point since both the 100-foot and 150-foot setbacks are more prohibitive to potential mobile food vendors.
“As I stated from the beginning I am in support of this ordinance,” Neidhamer said… “I think the 50 versus 100—I could go either way but let’s try the 50 and this is something that can be tweaked.”
Boyne City Commissioner Delbert “Gene” Towne asked if there was any consideration on the number of permits purchased and the sizes of the trucks.
Doyle said there is no limit but that the amount of space in town where food trucks can operate is limited by virtue of the limited areas in which they can operate.
Towne said he supported the language as presented.
Boyne City Commissioner Derek Gaylord said this topic has been an extreme balancing act for him. He said he looked at all the variances on the footage and had already determined that a one hundred feet would be appropriate based on what was presented. He added that the setback could be between 50 and 100 feet and that they could take that into consideration if an existing downtown business wished to expand its business within the setback area.
“The concept of the food truck down in the restaurant district, right within the view, I have always struggled with that from day one,” Gaylord said. “I have moved my viewpoint on them as a whole and where they’re at in town but I’m staying very consistent on the Central Business District where the restaurant is.”
He added, “I am strongly encouraging the board to consider the 100-foot to begin with.”
Gaylord said Baumann represents the restaurants that may be affected by the mobile food vendors and asked why the chamber of commerce has not taken a stance on the issue.
“It’s a complicated issue,” Baumann said. “It’s kind of a moving target. We didn’t know these exact numbers and fees until very recently. I don’t know of vehement objections from the chamber board.”
Baumann added that the views he stated are consistent with his board but that they had not taken a vote declaring their preference on the matter because there were too many details yet to be determined.
Gaylord then addressed Bush: “You stated, tonight, that you spent about $40,000 on your vehicle. Now, please tell me you have a backup plan if we vote not to approve food trucks in Boyne City. It’s either very courageous or something else.”
Bush said she had begun the improvements to her business prior to the issue of food trucks becoming an official discussion of the of city officials.
Gaylord said he originally felt the trucks should not be allowed on public property, but said with setbacks and regulations on areas of operation, like the areas near Peninsula Beach and the Boyne District Library, he could see allowing space for the trucks to operate.
Gaylord said he wants to see the areas of operation made clear in the ordinance to prevent an explosion of mobile food vendors throughout the town. He also said the ordinance must be clear on what type of mobile vending structures are allowed—preferably self-contained motor vehicles licensed by the State of Michigan for operation on roads—so that carts and other potential unintended operations don’t appear in town.
Neidhamer said he doesn’t want to be too restrictive, and that he has no problem with a cart that is pulled behind a motor vehicle.
Boyne City Commissioner Laura Sansom said she is in favor of allowing food trucks but in a limited way.
“I would like to see how it works out for the first season and then maybe expand that if everything goes well and the public really likes it and it works well and it doesn’t affect negatively our businesses that are in town,” she said.
Sansom said she also would like to see the setback be 100 feet instead of the proposed 50.
Boyne City Mayor Ron Grunch said that, with some tweaks, he is supportive of bringing the ordinance back for a second read. He agreed the setback should be a minimum of 100 feet.
Gaylord said he had concerns about the number of public parking spaces that may be taken up by food trucks, and that that issue be addressed should it become problematic.
Grunch agreed that the issue of public parking should be addressed.
A motion to schedule the second reading of the ordinance—with the changes suggested—was unanimously approved.