By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – A proposed food truck park on Allen Road between Southfield Road and Meyers has whet the appetite of city officials as the Downtown Development Authority and city planners explore options.
City Administrator Mark Kibby said the idea of the presence of food trucks outside of special events are so new to the city that ordinances need to be developed to govern its operation.
“We don’t even have a food truck ordinance,” Mayor William Matakas said. “All the mayors around the five counties are saying ‘Anybody got any food truck ordinances? Can you send us a copy?’ because evidently the food trucks have become a lobbying industry.”
Kibby told the City Council at an Oct. 25 study session that he has been working with city planners Dave Scurto and Steve Cassin of Carlisle Wortman on a food truck proposal from DDA Director Jennifer Kibby and a perspective business owner, who also wants to be able to serve alcohol with the food it serves.
“I put it out there because I can’t go and argue against it if the council is in favor of it,” Kibby said. “One of the suggestions would be that it would go through the planning commission and legal affairs and process it that way.”
The Council has asked city officials to draft an ordinance that would help regulate the unique working of food trucks, especially as they would differ from the standards to which brick and mortar restaurants must comply.
Matakas said that while the DDA is looking into the possibility of a food truck site from a business development perspective, the proposal would need to go through the Planning Commission, Zoning Commission and the City Council.
The Planning Commission and city attorney would draft a proposed ordinance, followed by a public hearing, after which the planning commission would approve or deny the ordinance. The city council would then adopt or deny the ordinance.
A food truck site would be required to submit a site plan, with required drawings prepared by an engineer or architect.
The site plans submitted would be compared to current zoning requirements, which would govern whether any zoning variances are needed.
Concerns that need to be addressed include whether permanent restaurant structures within the city would view a food truck as a less costly way to expand their kitchen capacity, and whether a brick and mortar building adding a food truck would be considered a temporary improvement. City officials expressed concern that food trucks might have a negative impact on long term restaurant capital investment in the city.
The proposed site of the food truck park, northeast of the now closed Allen Park Bar, is a public property improved with DDA and city funds, and it would occupy parking spots that might be needed if a business near the food truck site were to change its occupancy status.
Since food trucks are mobile, they do not pay property taxes like traditional restaurants. The city might consider a registration fee or a payment in lieu of property taxes to compensate for the use of the city parking lot for the food truck site.
The question as to whether food trucks would be restricted to certain districts or would be allowed anywhere in the city would also need to be addressed.
Officials said a test period, to gauge the impact of food trucks on other city food establishments, might want to be tried before a commitment to a more permanent agreement is made.
The response from “brick and mortar” restaurant owners must be considered prior to any agreement.
The possible impact of noise from a food truck site on the nearby neighborhood would need to be considered as well.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)