Rules for food trucks

Burnsville weighs regulations for culinary newcomers

Now that the growing food-truck movement has made its way to Burnsville, city officials are working their way through a host of regulatory issues the businesses bring with them.

City staffers will develop an ordinance covering topics from permitted locations for the trucks to whether they can sell food alongside nonprofit concession stands at ballgames.

Current city ordinances regulate door-to-door sales and outdoor sales in which a vendor camps out in one place for weeks or months. They don’t fully address location-hopping food trucks, although the City Council made some changes last year to allow the trucks.

Suburbs in general have done little yet to clarify regulations for mobile food vendors, Community Development Director Jenni Faulkner said.

“This really is a new kind of thing,” she said at a Feb. 12 work session.

Three food trucks were licensed by the city last year. Proprietors of two — The Wicked Palate and Motley Crews Heavy Metal Grill — told the council they’re amenable to regulations the city is considering.

One of the changes made last year allows vending on to employees of a business on the business’ property, so long as the vendor is invited or has permission.

The Wicked Palate has sold food at corporate sites in Burnsville such as Northern Tool and Frontier Communications, said proprietor Dan Gustafson, a former City Council member who operates the truck with his wife.

Motley Crews, which opened in September, was invited to work the grand opening at the new Best Buy retail location at 14141 Aldrich Ave S. and to sell food there on Black Friday, said proprietor Marty Richie of Lakeville, who has taken his truck to other cities.

Proposed regulations would generally prohibit vending in rights-of-way, consistent with current city code. Ice cream trucks are allowed because they’re on the move.

The city would determine rights-of-way where food trucks could use on-street parking without creating traffic or pedestrian hazards. Such spots would most likely be in the Heart of the City.

“The less things stop in the middle of the road, the better off we’ll all be. … Just day-to-day traffic in Burnsville is challenging enough,” Police Chief Eric Gieseke said.

The prospect of food trucks in city parks has raised concerns with the Burnsville Athletic Club and Baseball Association 191, Mayor Elizabeth Kautz said.

The BAC, which sells concessions at Sue Fischer Fields, and BA 191, which sells at Alimagnet Park, flow their profits back into park facilities and youth sports. The city is also a nonprofit concessionaire, notably at the Lac Lavon Park softball complex.

Parks staffers recommend that food-vending permits for parks with an existing concessionaire be granted only with the concessionaire’s approval.

Gustafson and Richie said they’d be willing to not sell the same items the concessionaires are selling when working those parks.

Gustafson said he wants to sell food at weeknight adult softball games the city operates. He said he worked some sporting events last summer under agreements with nonprofit concessionaires.

“… Just serving lunches does not make for a living in Burnsville,” said Gustafson, who has limited his business to the city and said he wants to stay here. “You need something to do in the evening.”

Council Member Dan Kealey said the nonprofits might make more money by making deals to allow food trucks.

There’s an “enormous” market for more interesting fare at local ballgames than “stuff purchased at Sam’s Club and resold over the counter,” Kealey said.

Proposed food-truck regulations also include an annual fee on the businesses and performance standards such as hours of operation and sign rules.

Officials don’t propose limiting the number of vendors or barring those that already have a permanent business location in Burnsville.

Writing the ordinance will take about two months and include hearings before the parks and planning commissions, officials said.