Union officials will consult with other municipalities before making any decisions to regulate mobile concession units.

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

At the September planning and zoning commission meeting, members resumed discussion about mobile concession units. 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. City Engineer Jonathan Zimmermann said the city has been working on, and revising, regulations for mobile units since about 2001. 

Zimmermann 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.

“They’re really just business licenses with different names,” he said. 

The city has temporary vendor licenses, peddler licenses and more. Zimmermann said it can get a little complicated.

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

Zimmermann told the plan board the city needs to decide what to do with the food trucks. He said the board should consider if the city wants to allow them in the city and, if so, what provisions needed to be placed on the businesses.

The entire board was in favor of keeping food trucks in the city. The other issues, however, prompted a discussion.

Zimmermann and Schroeder wanted to know what the board thought about selling in city streets. Both said it could cause issues for a number of reasons. 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 sell, 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. Assistant City Administrator James Schmieder suggested adding a time element to the code.

Schmieder said the code could allow street sales within a certain time frame. For example, if the limit is five minutes, mobile vendors could stay in one spot on the street for five minutes before having to move on.

That plans was supported by planning board members.

The board also discussed the various licenses and the need for so many. The review prompted the commission to ask how other cities handle food trucks.

Zimmermann said he hadn’t looked at other cities, but agreed it would be a good idea. City Clerk Jonita Copeland said she’s been told by applicants that other cities have an easier process.

The board opted to close the discussion for the time being. They instructed Zimmermann to check out other places and report back at a future meeting. 

Zimmermann said he’d see how other places handle the licenses and deal with the street selling issue.

No formal action was taken and no changes were made.