Maplewood Ward 3 Councilman, business owner and resident Barry Greenberg submitted the following on Thursday in response to the recent in Maplewood.
There are many issues to consider here. On the plus side, it adds to the eclectic fabric of the community. It might offer some food choices not currently available from existing restaurants.
On the down side, food trucks can cause traffic problems not only from the trucks themselves, but motorists trying to get a parking space close by. There are few viable options for open areas that can be designated for parking food trucks.
There are safety concerns for food truck patrons crossing the street. If they are not located downtown, they are encouraging people to get in their cars to get something to eat, while Maplewood is encouraging its residents to take advantage and enhance its status as a walkable community.
Food trucks can also have a negative economic effect on existing restaurants. Diners come to Maplewood because of the concentration of eating choices within an area of three or so blocks on the Manchester corridor and on Sutton Boulevard.
As a destination, this also benefits the adjacent retailers that rely on pedestrian traffic for sales. Brick and mortar restaurants currently pay sales tax and they pay a Special Business District tax that helps the city provide free parking and other services to the area in which they are located. By locating the food trucks at a distance from the restaurants, they could affect in a negative manner, they would be drawing shoppers away from the central business district.
I am not sure how mobile food trucks are regulated with regard to health department requirements. There are no bathrooms, they are not generally ADA compliant and they generate food packaging trash which must be dealt with also. If they must idle their motor to generate electricity for operation, they would be creating air pollution.
I would be inclined to allow food trucks based primarily on their acceptance by the existing restaurant owners and retailers in downtown Maplewood. If they feel that there is more benefit than threat to their businesses, we can find a way to address the other issues.