Lakeville City Council rolls food truck proposal forward

Slow start proposed; June vote expected

Food trucks are likely to be allowed in downtown Lakeville parking lots by this summer, according to comments by the Lakeville City Council at an April 24 work session.

City Council members will consider at its May 22 work session a menu of options for a food truck ordinance in the city’s downtown, including whether to allow food trucks on side streets, hours and amount of times they are allowed to operate annually and permit costs.

Several council members cited concerns about allowing food trucks to sell on side roads, citing safety concerns and proximity to residences.

They uniformly opposed allowing food trucks to operate on the city’s main strip, Holyoke Avenue, outside of community events like Pan-O-Prog, which closes the road to traffic.

If council members agree to draft ordinance provisions at the work session, they would vote on it at their June 5 meeting.

Discussion of allowing food trucks to operate in Lakeville arose several months ago when Lakeville Angry Inch Brewing owner and operator Jon Erickson requested to have that option.

Last February, he had a food truck to his business, which he said proved to boost business and draw interest on social media.

City Administrator Justin Miller said the city chose to turn a “blind eye” to the action, which spurred the city’s conversations around permitting.

Sharing the same building as Angry Inch Brewing is Heavy Metal Grill Restaurant. Its owner, Marty Richie, also operates a food truck and has cited strong opposition to the proposal.

While Erickson has said food trucks would bring more people downtown and help all businesses, Richie has argued the food trucks draw business from brick-and-mortar restaurants whose owners have invested significant money into their operations.

He predicted the food trucks would shutter the downtown.

“They don’t belong in the middle of seven different restaurants,” Richie said. “Quite frankly I think it’s reckless to put (food trucks) in the middle of seven different restaurants. These food trucks come in and they clean these places out and you have an empty brick-and-mortar there. It’s your city. It sits there empty.”

Richie called parking a food truck outside other restaurants “a little slimy” and “unethical.”

“I really hope I don’t have to put that in my business plan,” Richie said.

Council members said they have received many calls from residents and business owners in favor and opposed to food trucks, but the majority of the council indicated interest in allowing the trucks to operate within parameters that include restrictions on location, amount of times they can set up and hours of operation.

Lakeville Mayor Doug Anderson urged a slow, measured approach to the situation.

“We need to walk and not run as we put this in place so that we can learn from our experiences as we go through it,” he said.

Citing safety as a significant concern, Anderson advocated for restricting food truck locations to areas in parking lots away from doors and drives and suggested allowing food trucks downtown six times annually.

Council Member Luke Hellier called limiting the trucks to six times a year “unrealistic” and “way too restrictive.”

“We’ve made a commitment as a council to focus on downtown,” Hellier said. “We’re not going to be able to build an audience for attracting people to downtown on a Friday and Saturday on just six nights.”

Anderson said he did not know what the right number of times would be, but he does not envision having a food truck downtown every night of the week.

Hellier said he supports allowing trucks Thursday-Sunday and keeping them at least 100 feet from residential areas.

Council Member Brian Wheeler advocated for taking action sooner so Angry Inch can plan for its summer season.

He also suggested the city limit food truck locations to parking lots, rejecting an option to allow them on side streets, possibly to include distance parameters between the trucks and restaurants and residential properties.

Council Member Bart Davis agreed with Anderson’s slow approach, comparing it to the way the council addressed issues between restaurants and residential neighbors regarding outdoor patio noise and music at downtown restaurants.

The council ultimately approved an ordinance allowing music that included restrictions on the hours and volumes.

Council Member Colleen LaBeau cited concern about the potential for food trucks to eat into the profits of downtown restaurants and the potential liability to both the city and food truck operator if an accident occurred.

“I would just want to make sure these (trucks) aren’t placed in a spot that a car can’t potentially hit someone,” she said.

LaBeau also said the ordinance should not “open the flood gates,” allowing trucks from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day as staff proposed was an option to match outdoor patio hours of operation.

Near the end of the discussion, Angry Inch’s Erickson thanked the council and staff, adding that he is happy to limit allowing food trucks on Fridays and Saturdays for the summer and possibly opening it up next year if things go well.

He said he sees a need on Thursdays and Sundays and would love to have that option.

If Lakeville officials agree, Wednesday would be the only day Angry Inch Brewery is open and would not be allowed to host a food truck; the business is not open Mondays or Tuesdays.

Erickson said he does not want to have a food truck every day of the week because he does not want to be taking business away from neighboring restaurants.

“I would love to have the option of having it every day that we’re open,” Erickson added.

Erickson requested his business be allowed a special permit to have a food truck between now and the June 5 vote because summer is fast approaching.

He also noted the city’s road reconstruction work slated to start in July after Pan-O-Prog will hinder their sales.

“With the road being torn up, it would be nice to get a jump-start on the summer as soon as possible,” Erickson said.

Miller said staff would not support that proposal, noting the city’s actions in pursuing the permitting process.

Anderson said the timetable leading to the June 5 decision “gives folks a sense of where we’re headed.”

Council members were at first considering a citywide ordinance regarding food trucks, but City Planning Director Darryl Morey said Lakeville has an administrative permitting process for food truck operators to temporarily operate in commercial areas outside the city’s downtown.

He said since the request came from a downtown business they are focusing exclusively on that area.

Council members also indicated interest in allowing food trucks to operate in Antler’s Park on a permanent basis and agreed to review the option as part of its upcoming Antlers Park plan update.

Food trucks are allowed in parks now on a limited basis, primarily during sporting events through permits obtained by sporting associations.