Food truck ordinance passes over Reuther’s objections
“I have a problem with that,” said Nevis City Council member Blair Reuther regarding provisions of a new city ordinance regulating transient food units.
The Nevis City Council on March 13 passed an ordinance to regulate food trucks and trailers, and approved an application for a food truck/trailer license.
City Administrator Dawn Veit reminded the council that there was discussion last year about regulating mobile food units. She said the city attorney drafted the ordinance, which the city’s planning commission reviewed at a public hearing on Feb. 27 and recommended for council approval.
Council member Blair Reuther, who abstained from both motions due to operating a food trailer himself, voiced concerns about the ordinance and fee schedule.
First, Reuther questioned whether the hearing was posted in the newspaper. Veit said yes, it was in the paper, on the city’s website and on the bulletin board at city hall. Reuther admitted that he doesn’t take the paper.
Next, Reuther asked whether the exception stated in the ordinance – “Existing licensed restaurants with brick-and-mortar physical sites within city limits shall be exempt from permit requirements for special events” – applies to the Iron Horse. Veit said yes.
Reuther also criticized the ordinance’s length limit of 20 feet bumper-to-bumper. “I have a problem with that,” he said, suggesting it would push out many potential vendors.
Council member Sue Gray argued that space is limited for food trucks, with the ordinance also limiting mobile food service to the general public to within areas zoned B-1 and B-2 (commercial and industrial) and prohibiting them within 50 feet of a brick-and-mortar, operational restaurant.
Gray also noted that the city attorney reviewed the ordinance, and that the 20-foot standard is common to ordinances in other cities.
Reuther also objected to allowing the Nevis Civic & Commerce charge vendors to operate food trucks in the city during festivals and events. He voiced concern about the city delegating government authority to a private business.
Sue Gray said C&C has always been responsible for events such as Muskie Days and Sites and Bites, providing health certificates and proof of insurance to the city.
“So they can charge whatever they want?” Reuther asked. Gray said, “That’s up to the Chamber.”
Reuther said delegating government authority to a private business constitutes a conflict of interest.
Mayor Jeanne Thompson said that when Civic and Commerce asks to have food vendors at an event, Veit gives them guidelines to follow, and the organization is responsible to inform its vendors that the city may come to inspect them.
“It’s not delegating it someone as much as saying, ‘This is your event, C&C, and you need to make sure that the people that are part of your event are following (the guidelines).”
Reuther verified that as his trailer is permanently located on his property, it is exempted from the ordinance.
Thompson said they can re-address the ordinance at any time if they find it is not working, through discussion with the planning and zoning committee and the city attorney.
Reuther also criticized the fee schedule – $250 for seasonal licenses, $100 for an event license and $175 for a regular license. He said the $100 fee was a lot for a single event and questioned whether the vendor could make a profit.
Thompson replied that business owners need to decide for themselves whether this works for them. “The businesses that are here for Muskie Days come back,” she said. “It says something about the business that they’re doing.”
Thompson made a motion to approve the ordinance as written, and Gray made a motion to approve the food truck application. Both motions passed without dissent, Reuther abstaining.
In consent items and general business, the council:
- Agreed to send a general letter of support for a community food forest pilot program, as requested by Crystal Mathisrud with the Hubbard County Soil and Water Conservation District, so the SWCD can apply for a $60,000 grant from the National Association of Conservation Districts.
- Received a police report from Deputy Josh Oswald, including a warrant search regarding someone with a gross misdemeanor arrest warrant, resulting in the suspect being taken into custody.
- Heard Reuther suggest holding a special meeting to discuss savings, investments with a financial planner at a date and time to be determined.
- In his written summary of activity between Feb. 9 and March 8, Oswald reported responding to two accidents, two animal calls, two arrests, 13 attempts to locate, three citations, two civil processes, three disturbance/disorderly calls, nine medical calls, six “other,” seven public assists, 11 traffic stops and 14 business/facility checks.
- Approved financial reports for February, including general fund receipts totaling $2,554 and disbursements totaling $45,888, and municipal liquor store receipts totaling $59,323 and disbursements totaling $54,135.
The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 10 at Nevis City Hall.