Food Trucks, Mobile Boutiques to Get Green Light Under New City Ordinance
The council gave city staff the go-ahead to draft an ordinance specifically for food trucks and mobile retail establishments, which will make Burnsville one of the first suburbs in the Twin Cities to craft regulation for the burgeoning new industry.
Come summer, Burnsville will be ready to roll when the legions of food trucks and mobile sellers hit the streets.
Tuesday night, the Burnsville city council resolved to have a new ordinance in place before the thaw. The new ordinance will lay out specific regulations for the fledgling industry, which is quickly becoming a major economic force in the Twin Cities region.
"This really is a new kind of thing. We've come to find out that in suburban communities there really isn't a lot of information about this," said Community Development Director Jenni Faulkner.
Though Minneapolis and St. Paul were quick to adopt codes, few suburbs in the region have any regulation on the books written specifically for food trucks, mobile boutiques and the like. As a result, the trucks hobbled by stringent peddling laws or are completely unregulated, sometimes both. Burnsville was no exception to the rule. Last year, when former Council Member Dan Gustafson fired up his new food truck, Wicked Palate, vehicles over 5,000 pounds were not allowed on residential streets and even mobile vending on private property was restricted, unless the seller had a conditional use permit or were to be included in a special event like Fire Muster. Gustafson said that those two regulations were limiting to his business, to say the least.
The city eased these restrictions, allowing trucks to travel through neighborhoods and set up shop in business parking lots over lunchtime if they were welcome.
"This has been very well-received, without any issue. That was a good change in my opinion," Faulkner said.
It was a step in the right direction, Faulkner said, though city codes still leave much to be desired. As of now, vending trucks in Burnsville fall under a melange of ordinances, none of which completely answer to the issue at hand. The result is that existing regulation is in some cases too burdensome and in others far too lax. Faulkner said part of the problem is that the trucks are neither totally stationary (like a sit-down restaurant) nor in constant motion (like an ice cream truck), and thus straddle the line between a bricks-and-mortar establishment and transient peddling.
To further complicate matters, city policy and city code are sometimes in conflict, Faulkner said.
"While our ordinance does not clearly prohibit vending in the right-of-way, we have a policy on the books that does, that gives clear direction to people selling things out of the backs of trucks and cars," Faulkner said. "Our ordinance and our policy should be modified to be consistent."
Both truck vendors and Faulkner agreed that the simplest course of action was to craft an ordinance specifically dealing with food and retail trucks. Both parties agreed to some guidelines for the new ordinance.
Here is what the new ordinance will likely include:
- The city will likely keep "land use" codes as is, meaning that trucks will either have to have special use permits or be included in a larger event to sell within city limits.
- Like peddlers, all employees of a truck will have to undergo background checks.
- License renewal and background checks will likely occur once every two years, rather than one, to keep costs down for mobile businesses.
- The police and fire department will choose specific roadside locations for trucks to operate to minimize safety and traffic hazards.
- The city will regulate the trucks' hours of operation.
- To vend in city parks, truck operators will be assessed a modest fee. They will also be expected to give concession stands nearby a wide berth, perhaps even assenting to a non-compete agreement.
- Food and retail trucks should not be stored at someone's residence.
The city rebuffed a pitch from Gustafson and others to play official host to a food truck rally.
"We don't feel we should...but certainly we would work with any organizer who wishes to hold a community event and get a special permit through recreation just like Art and All That Jazz," Faulkner said.
City officials estimated that it would take about two months to get the ordinance ready. They said it would likely be in place by spring.