BY Solomon Gustavo
Delano City Council adopted an ordinance amending city code and zoning to allow for mobile food truck vendor licensing at Tuesday’s meeting.
Before the decision, the council was briefed on the proposed ordinance, opened the topic for a public hearing, and discussed among themselves. The change was approved 4-1, with Mayor Dale Graunke, council members Betsy Stolfa, Jason Franzen, and Holly Schrupp in favor, and Council Member Jack Russek opposed.
On behalf of the city planning and zoning division and Northwest Associated Consultants, a community planning company, consultant Alan Brixius presented ordinance regulations to the council. Prospective mobile food units would be allowed to conduct business in the city after receiving a license from the state and Delano city clerk.
A licence would last 21 days and a mobile food unit would be eligible for four licences a year, totaling 84 potential days. Licence cost was not in the proposal; city staff would pursue appropriate pricing after the ordinance’s approval.
Stipulations for city licensing require Minnesota Health Department and state regulation compliance for food trucks. Mobile food units would be permitted to operate at up to four locations in the community. These places must be private property in commercial and industrial zoning districts. Trucks must be 100 feet from the entrance of a restaurant or other food-serving establishment and are not allowed on public streets. Downtown parking, Brixius said the planning division determined, “is too valuable.”
The exception to operating out of private property in commercial or industrial districts would be events taking place at locations within residential zoning like schools, parks, and churches.
Mobile food units are prohibited from using outside sound amplifying equipment, televisions, or noise makers like bells and whistles. The units are prohibited from operating between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Ice cream trucks are given permission to use outside noise makers and operate within the public right-of-way in residential districts.
Russek was the first to speak after the planning division brief. After expressing his gratitude for the work done in the brief, he said he cannot support the ordinance because the city has “16 restaurants where people can go and buy food.”
Franzen expressed concern with the day length of licences and the pace of decision making. He said he would agree to fewer days and “see how that goes for a year,” but that he does not have a specific number in mind.
“I take issue with the sense of urgency,” he said.
“Public feedback is the want and desire for more choices in dining,” Stolfa said, adding that she understands local restaurateur concern, but competition can be beneficial.
“If we want to be friendly to business and want more choice, this is one way to do it,” she said. “I think there are so many limitations written into this. I’m comfortable how it is. We can always revisit this if we have to.”
“When you see a busy street with more storefronts, there is more traffic for all to share,” she later added.
A public hearing was granted, opening the topic for anyone to comment. Lupine Brewery owner James Anderle spoke before the council, saying he is open to welcoming mobile food units. He said he is open to shifts in the number of days and other regulations to “get this thing off the ground and see what happens.” Shrupp thanked Anderle for his comments and said she appreciates the following Lupine and other Delano establishments have cultivated that could be potential food truck customers.
Graunke said fear is not going to dictate his decision; variety of food options and increasing business will.
“The biggest thing here is the fear of the unknown; we’re afraid it’s going to kill existing business,” he said.
Graunke said the ordinance might not affect present, stationary business owners, or it could even help. He noted that local business has already driven an increase in traffic downtown ,and mobile food trucks can increase it even more.
On t he weekend, “you can’t find a place to park. Its great. Why not keep building on that?” Graunke said.
After the public hearing was closed, Franzen suggested tabling the topic until the council irons out exactly the number of days it would prefer.
“This is a solution looking for a problem,” he said.
The topic was put to a vote and passed.