By unanimous vote, the Maplewood Planning and Zoning Commission decided to do nothing and close its discussion with regard to food trucks, essentially continuing the city’s ban on mobile food operations–that is, unless Mayor James White and City Council says otherwise.
Seventeen residents attended the meeting at Maplewood City Hall Monday night. Seven spoke–all of them against the mobile operations–including Bill Berthold of the chamber of commerce, who delivered a petition with signatures of 31 business owners against food trucks.
The commission’s vote was 6-0 with member Linda Siemers absent.
Jimmy John’s Restaurant vs. one food truck
Driving the commission’s decision to disallow meals-on-wheels businesses from operating in Maplewood was a singular incident involving a food truck at Sunnen Business Park and its impact on the local Jimmy John’s Restaurant.
Boo Conner, owner of the local franchise, explained. The phones stopped ringing for Sunnen.
“We probably deliver there 20 times a day. Then we found out there was a food truck,” she said. “Food trucks affect my business probably worse than anyone else because it hurts my delivery business.” Conner said she lost several hundred dollars that day.
Rollie Conner, Boo’s husband and business partner, questioned the need for food trucks. How many people will the food trucks attract from outside the neighborhood, he asked.
“Food trucks are here for the prime-time business, the 11:30 to 1:30 business. They’re here for the gravy,” he said.
“We took a heck of a chance coming here five years ago. Food trucks have zero skin in the game," he said. "We have $300,000 invested.”
A notice has been sent to the Maplewood Police Department informing them that the food truck is in violation of current local law and is not allowed to operate at Sunnen or anywhere else in the city.
One inquiry led to chatter about food trucks
Conversation about the mobile restaurants began circulating a few months ago when a food truck operator contacted Marty Corcoran about the possibility of doing business in Maplewood. Corcoran brought the request to the planning and zoning commission, which instructed him to compile more information and develop a proposal on how to proceed, where to locate food trucks and how to regulate them.
Corcoran did that and delivered his memorandum–"basically a draft," he said–to the commission, the mayor and the city council last Friday.
He also gave the policy makers three options: do nothing and let existing rules stay that prohibit food trucks, allow food trucks to operate without restrictions, or allow food trucks to operate in Maplewood, but with restrictions.
They decided to drop the matter.
Said local property owner, Rob Birenbaum during the open comment period, “Food trucks are opportunistic. They are itinerant merchants.”
Planning and zoning commission chairman Dan Noonan, added, "The restaurants are the cornerstone of the central business district. I think its something worth protecting."
City council member Bary Greenberg adressed food truck issues in a Patch Letter to the Editor on March 9.
What do you think? Should the Jimmy John's one-day experience stop all food trucks from coming to Maplewood?