Changes to the city of Union’s business licenses and regulations regarding mobile concession units won’t happen in November.

At Monday’s planning and zoning commission meeting, the board was presented with sample regulations used by other communities. The board was instructed to take the samples home, read them and come back with ideas for how Union could craft it’s own rules at the November meeting.

Any changes to the regulations would ultimately have to be approved by the board of aldermen. The decision to put off a recommendation vote by the planning and zoning commission until the November meeting means a change can’t be approved by the board of aldermen until December, at the earliest.

In September, the planning and zoning commission requested a look at how other communities handle regulation of mobile concession units before making any decisions. For the October meeting, city staff gathered a few options for the board to read.

City Engineer Jonathan Zimmermann said he felt there were positives to each of the examples given to the board. He said the city should be able to tailor them to meet its needs.

Zimmermann added that the likely solution is to combine the examples and present it to the plan board in November.

Background

A conversation started earlier this year about ice cream trucks in the parks system eventually evolved into a closer look at business licenses for food trucks.

In September, City Attorney Matt Schroeder said the parks issue could be handled easily with a revision to park regulations.

Schroeder said the city could simply require vendors to have written permission from the city and the business has to benefit the city. Otherwise a mobile unit can’t operate in the parks system.

The larger issue, however, is how the city handles the mobile units in general. Zimmermann said the city has been working on, and revising, regulations for mobile units since about 2001.

He said there’s always a new wrinkle with food trucks and the city has tried to keep up. The code has been modified several times.

As a result, the city offers several licenses. The city has temporary vendor licenses, peddler licenses and more.

Zimmermann said it can get complicated. City Clerk Jonita Copeland said she’s been told by applicants that other cities have an easier process.

The licenses have different rates. For example, a standard brick and mortar operation seeking a standard business license would pay a flat fee. A temporary vendor would pay based on how many days the business is operating.

The plan board favored allowing food trucks, but was unsure how best to regulate them in an easy way.

An example the board discussed in September was selling from the trucks in city streets. Zimmermann said using the street as a sales office encourages more pedestrians to be in the right of way — something he wants to avoid.

The flip side is, preventing any business from being in the street would hurt certain vendors. While food trucks tend to park for a period of time while selling, vendors like ice cream trucks sell on the go.

Putting a prohibition on street sales would effectively ban ice cream trucks from the city. Board members said while they didn’t want selling in the street, they also didn’t want to limit ice cream trucks.

All the discussion prompted the plan board to suggest looking at how their neighbors handle the issue. Plan board members requested city staff to see how other municipalities regulate mobile sales units.

With that information presented Monday night, the board will now have a chance to craft its own regulations at a future meeting.