food truck ordinance in Boyne City parked

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Benjamin Gohs

News Editor

Boyne City has instated a 90-day mobile food vending moratorium on public property in the entire city—except for special events—while it rewrites its proposed ordinance on the matter.
Boyne City Assistant Planning Director Annie Doyle opened a public hearing on the matter—during the Boyne City Commission’s Tuesday June 24 meeting—by stating that the city would have to scrap its draft ordinance.
“Since the first reading of the mobile food vending ordinance on May 13, city staff and commissioners have received considerable negative feedback concerning mobile food vending from business owners from the Central Business District,” she said. “We’ve tried our best, in bringing to you, the opinion of the public regarding food trucks in the community. And, now, information has come to light that would change our ordinance recommendation to such an extent that an entirely new set of regulations will need to be proposed.”
Doyle added, “We ask that you consider Aug. 12 for the target date for consideration of new ordinance language.”
Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Baumann—who received a letter from 10 Boyne City restaurants that oppose mobile food vending—said he supported a 90-day moratorium in order to give the city time to rework the ordinance.
That letter seems to have sparked the sudden change in the city’s direction on the matter.
According to a June 21 memo from Doyle to Boyne City Manager Michael Cain, after Baumann received that letter, some Boyne City officials—including Boyne City Mayor Ron Grunch and Boyne City Commissioner Tom Neidhamer—met with more than two dozen people on June 18 at the Boyne District Library to discuss the matter further.
As a result of that meeting, according to the memo, Grunch made a new suggestion on the matter: “Food trucks shall not be permitted on property in the downtown Boyne City restaurant district. With exception, store owners may have carts, grills and equipment that are directly related to their business. City permit is required. 501C3 organizations are exempt. Food trucks are allowed in Boyne City city parks for special events by invitation only.”
According to the memo, the city’s attorney advised that any moratorium must be as short as possible, specific to the situation and limited in what restrictions it places on private property.
Members of the public were given an opportunity to opine on mobile food vending in general during the public hearing.
“We have to be really careful when we talk about this … because the truth of the matter is that it’s much more wider scope than most people are focusing on,” said Brian Freund, owner of Brian’s Ice Cream Experience, which is a mobile vending business.
He asked what difference there is between the Schwan’s delivery truck and an ice-cream truck.
He also asked if children will have to pay a fee in order to operate a lemonade stand on their private property or to sell Girl Scout cookies in front of a grocery store.
“The rules should be the same for everybody and they’re not,” Freund said.
John McClorey, who owns a business that is not food-related, said Boyne City is a nice place because it is so inviting.
“The more people we get to come to Boyne City the better we’re going to be,” he said.
Shelley Bush—a Boyne City resident and mobile food vending business owner—asked if the meeting between some city officials and some city residents was open to the public.
Boyne City Main Street Manager Hugh Conklin said he received a letter from the owner of Boyne City Subway restaurant claiming that some people’s voices had not been heard during the numerous previous meetings on the matter and that he and Baumann organized the meeting.
Conklin said the meeting attendees consisted primarily of business owners.
“If you had 26 owners of restaurants who called this meeting to order, of course you’re going to have 26 that are opposing it because they’re the one who called the meeting,” Bush said.
Conklin said the meeting consisted of eight or nine business owners and an assortment of other people.
“I would like to see the board focus on public safety and public opinion and not just local business owners,” Bush said. “I understand that the business owners in town are concerned about the city being overrun by food trucks. However, that is why we need to come up with a reasonable solution.”
Bush agreed that food trucks should not be allowed on Water or South East streets for public safety reasons.
“The board was voted by the public, not just the business owners,” she said. “The public should and must be allowed a choice.”
Chris Nelson, owner of B.C. Pizza, said he opposed food trucks but it is not a matter of self-preservation.
“I believe in capitalism. I believe in competition. I believe in having a right to do that stuff,” he said. “What I’m concerned about is the Boyne City that I spend the last 26 years in and that the city has worked hard to build the image that it has.”
Nelson added that the food trucks could be a detriment to the city.
Boyne City resident and realtor Marty Moody said the city does not need transient businesses when there are so many brick and mortar storefronts sitting empty.
“Last week a food truck from out of Traverse City rolls into town—it’s not right,” he said. “The old adage about that dollar turning 14 times in your community … those dollars turned once. They turned and left, folks. They turned and went back to Traverse City.”
Another owner of a business that is not food-related said the city needs to find some middle ground on the issue.
Eric Frykberg of Boyne Avenue Greenhouse said he supports food trucks.
Boyne City Farmers Market Manager Becky Harris said brick and mortar restaurants and food trucks are two different things and cannot be compared to one another.
“There are easy ways that you can regulate this,” she said, adding that the city could determine how many miles away food trucks can come from in order to help keep the business local.
Bruce Brown, owner of the Alpine Chocolat Haus, said brick and mortar stores have numerous regulations they must follow, that food trucks may escape.
“We’re here 365 days a year. We pay our taxes. The food trucks come, the food trucks go,” he said… “This could be the beginning of the end as we know Boyne City as right now.”
Boyne City Commissioner Laura Sansom asked about the implications of the moratorium.
The city’s civil counsel said the moratorium should apply to public property only.
“I think proceeding cautiously is really the best way to go in this case,” Sansom said. “There’s an awful lot … of opposition and I think we should weigh that.”
Boyne City Commissioner Delbert “Gene” Towne said food trucks could possibly be incorporated if they are regulated and kept local.
Neidhamer said he agreed with every comment on both sides of the argument.
Food trucks will still be allowed to participate in the farmers market and any event that has traditionally allowed and/or has been specifically approved to include mobile food vendors.
Commissioners approved the moratorium in a unanimous vote.