ALPENA - The City of Alpena and the Alpena Downtown Development Authority are in the process of putting together a plan that would allow people operating food trucks to be able to sell their product in the city.
On Jan. 20, Alpena Municipal Council instructed City Manager Greg Sundin and his staff to work with the DDA, business owners, law enforcement and the food vendors to devise regulations that would be used in an ordinance. Currently there are no rules in place to govern food vendors selling food from a vehicle.
Sundin said he has been reviewing ordinances from other communities to see how some of the ideas could translate to Alpena. He said having regulations in place will ensure the safety of the customers and make business practice fair.
"We don't have any requirements or regulations in place for something like this. Right now there is nothing," Sundin said. "Right now you can't sell merchandise from a city parking space, so it is illegal to begin with, so we need to develop a comprehensive ordinance that will define what a food truck is and establish the criteria needed to operate one and what type of licenses will be needed."
Sundin said there are no fees established for food trucks and that will be developed as the proposed ordinance takes shape, as well as where a truck can park to service its customers. He said there were some really good ideas in the ordinances from Traverse City and Kalamazoo. He said because some of those rules fit Alpena, it will make the process drafting the ordinance move more quickly.
"We aren't reinventing the wheel. We will take their plans and sort of use them as a template, but modify it to fit our unique situation in Alpena," Sundin said. "Once it is drafted we will have it reviewed by our attorney and then the DDA has to approve it and recommend it to council. We will present it and have the first reading at one meeting and then the council could vote on it at the next meeting."
Sundin said a public meeting on the issue is not necessary, but will hold one if the council wishes.
DDA Director Lesslee Dort said there was interest from one Alpena couple about operating a food truck and the vehicle already has been purchased. She said since the council meeting she already has received inquiries from others wishing to follow suit. She said it is a good way for people to start a business and maybe expand from it.
"I think it can be an incredible positive venture for downtown, as long as we have looked at it from everyone's view first," Dort said. "There needs to be a balancing act of fostering growth downtown, but with respect to those who have the bricks and mortar stores. I think it is a great was for entrepreneur to start a business."
Dort said she has reached out to other communities about food truck services and operations. She said in some towns there is a designated area where several of the trucks can park and the customers have a larger variety of menu items to choose from.
"It is almost like food truck alley, but right now I'm not sure where we will go yet," Dort said. "There are also communities that allow the trucks to park where ever they want. That is why the city and the DDA are going to work on this together, so we can have a plan that works best for Alpena and all of the business owners."
Dort said she would like to have a few business owners on the committee, so their input and any concerns on the matter can be considered. She said she also would like to have someone who has operated a food truck in the past.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.