Will food trucks soon be rolling into downtown Traverse City?

After seven months of debating, Traverse City commissioners passed an ordinance to allow food truck vendors within city limits Monday evening. With a final vote of 5-2, commissioners passed the ordinance on what they call a "trial basis." Right now, food trucks are allowed on private property, but beginning May 16, 2013, food vendor trucks can set up shop on select areas of city property.

The ordinance would allow up to two mobile food vendors to operate on city property from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. in four different city parking lots. The proposed areas would be downtown and on State Street between Pine and Union.

Currently, food trucks are allowed on private property in Traverse City, where the rates are very expensive. Under the new ordinance, food trucks will be allowed on city property like parking lots downtown. Vendors would pay a fee of $1,225 per year to park on city property.

The ordinance would also open streets in near Northwestern Michigan College, the Civic Center, Munson Medical Center and several of Traverse City's larger parks.

Some brick-and-mortar businesses downtown are not in favor of the food truck ordinance, saying it will devalue some of the current restaurants downtown.

Mike Busley, Owner of Grand Traverse Pie Company, is not against the idea of food trucks but would like to see the current policy stay in place. The current policy only allows food vendor trucks to operate on private property. Busley says, "it's allocating what I consider very limited resources, our parking. During the prime summer months, we'll be allocating parking for food trucks rather than our guests. There's a lot of growth, a lot of food businesses downtown that operate on a very fair and competitive basis. We're all paying rent, we're all making serious investments...all I'm saying is let's keep the playing field fair."

But food truck vendors say they don't believe they have a distinct advantage over downtown brick-and-mortar businesses. "I'm a weather dependent business for one, if it rains my dining room is soaked and people don't show up. I have year-round lease, I have payments, this isn't cheap. Just because someone may have invested more in a brick -and-mortar restaurant, I'm not sure that just because you own a restaurant and have downtown property taxes that you would get the right to all the business there," says Simon Joseph, Owner of Roaming Harvest Food Truck.

Although the ordinance is set to go into effect May 16, the approval was given on a trial basis, meaning commissioners do plan to review it again in October to make any modifications they deem necessary.