Niles to draft food truck ordinance

Published 9:21 am Wednesday, March 30, 2016

With the food truck craze gaining momentum across the country, Niles city leaders are taking steps to make sure they are prepared when the moveable feast rolls into town.

On Monday, the four-member Niles ordinance committee discussed the creation of a law that would regulate how food trucks could operate inside city limits.

City Administrator Ric Huff said Niles has received interested from multiple food truck operators in the past several months.

Last year, the Greenbush Brewing Company parked its brisket van outside of Massimo’s Pizzeria on Main Street. Currently, Jose Mendez, owner of El Amigo Pepe restaurant, is using a park vendor permit to sell Mexican food out of a trailer in Riverfront Park a couple days a week.

“Food trucks are already here,” Huff said.

The problem is that Niles does not have an ordinance specifically regarding the use of food trucks.

Potential sellers must use things like a park vendor permit to sell food in a city park or an event permit (obtained through the sponsor of the event) to operate at an event — permits not designed to address all the things that come with food trucks.

The four members of the ordinance committee — VandenHeede, Gretchen Bertschy, David Mann and Bill Weimer — all said they are not opposed to food trucks operating in Niles.

“Food trucks are really big right now and really great for a community,” Councilman VandenHeede, ordinance committee chair said.

The committee decided to take a look at food truck ordinances adopted by other communities — like Kalamazoo and South Bend — and to craft their own based what they find.

Some questions members addressed, but did not come to a conclusion on, were:

• Where can food trucks operators park and sell?

• Can they sell in residential neighborhoods?

• Should they be required to operate a certain distance from brick and mortar restaurants and events, like the Apple Festival?

• How much should the city charge for a food truck permit?

• How many food trucks would be allowed to operate?

No action was taken during the meeting.