Expanding highway locations? Council looks at food truck ordinance

Thursday, December 16, 2021

The Eureka Springs City Council voted Monday night for city attorney Tim Weaver to draw up an amended food truck ordinance expanding the available food truck locations on Highway 62 from two to five.

Council member Melissa Greene introduced the item, saying there was a lot of controversy surrounding food trucks when the ordinance was approved in 2016. Since then, Greene said, she’s heard from constituents that food trucks are valuable.

“At the time, we thought they’d be cutting into brick and mortar. I don’t think they are,” Greene said. “I think they serve a purpose. It’s kind of nice to have some other choices.”

The food truck locations are chosen each year through a lottery, and the council held the lottery drawing for 2022 on Nov. 22. There were three entries for Group D, which spans Highway 62, and the two winners were 409 W. Van Buren and 2400 E. Van Buren. Greene said Monday night that she was disappointed the community center location lost the lottery.

“There’s a great food truck up there everybody loves and I think it’s a loss for our city,” Greene said. “I think people who go to the farmer’s market enjoy having that there.”

Greene said she’d like Weaver to write an ordinance increasing the number of locations on Highway 62. City clerk Ann Armstrong asked how many new spots are proposed and Greene said three. Council member Autumn Slane asked if the lottery could be removed completely.

“Really, people are setting up shop and then a year later they’re debating whether they can even continue business,” Slane said.

Council member Bill Ott said he wanted the council to either amend the existing food truck ordinance or draft a new one to expand the number of locations on Highway 62. Such an ordinance would “embrace the entrepreneurial opportunities for people who might want to offer a food service but can’t afford to either lease or buy a brick and mortar location,” Ott said.

Armstrong said there are many existing opportunities for food trucks. There are five open spots for food trucks at the moment, Armstrong said. Lake Leatherwood has spots for multiple food trucks, Armstrong said, and food trucks can set up during events at dedicated locations. Armstrong added that she supports expanding the number of locations on Highway 62.

“We don’t need to recreate the wheel, but there is a simple solution for an existing problem and I think you nailed it,” Armstrong said.

Council member Harry Meyer recalled when the owner of a food truck on Highway 62 lost the lottery but remained in operation after modifying the food truck into a permanent location.

“The one that’s up at the community center could do the same thing,” Meyer said. “There’s plenty of ways to work it out.”

Council member Terry McClung said those situations are different because the food truck owner also owns the property the food truck sits on. That’s not the case at the community center, McClung said.

“At the same time, if you want to add some, OK, but I think you better keep it as a lottery or something and keep control of it and not bend every time the wind blows,” McClung said. “You can’t do that and that’s what’s happening here. I would be real cautious about what you’re going to do.”

Greene suggested having an ordinance written with another lottery drawing after it’s approved and McClung said the city has an existing ordinance.

“All we need to do is amend it,” McClung said.

Greene moved to ask Weaver to amend the food truck ordinance increasing the number of locations on Highway 62 from two to five and the council voted 5-1 to approve the motion, with Meyer dissenting.

“Just to qualify it, this is to approve preparing an ordinance,” McClung said. “It doesn’t approve the ordinance, so we’ll see how it gets written and we’ll go from there.”

The council then heard from parks director Scott Miskiel about a proposal to trade a Kubota U-25 excavator for a Kubota U-17 model. Miskiel said the U-25 model is larger than needed to maintain the trails at Lake Leatherwood City Park. When Jagged Axe Trail Design was recently working on the trails using the U-17 model, Miskiel said, parks employees found that model ideal for trail maintenance.

Jagged Axe Trail Design agreed to trade the excavators, Miskiel said, because the business needed a larger excavator and already owned two of the U-17 models. Miskiel acknowledged that it’s “a little bit of a unique situation” but said it works out for everyone. The U-17 model has one year left under warranty, Miskiel said, while the U-25 version is no longer under warranty.

“We spent over $2,000 this year maintaining the U-25, so we expect that in the long run, we’ll save quite a bit of money and it’s just all in all a better deal for us,” Miskiel said.

McClung moved to approve a resolution authorizing the equipment trade and the council unanimously agreed to do so.

Also at the meeting, the council approved an ordinance allowing the parks commission to have two at-large commissioners on a first reading, followed by second and third readings by title only. The council then approved the emergency clause to put the ordinance into effect immediately.

The council approved a proposed ordinance vacating a portion of Paxos Street between blocks 12 and 13 on a first reading, followed by a second reading by title only. The council then approved a resolution amending a previous resolution dispersing COVID-19 funds to city employees. Mayor Butch Berry said the original resolution excluded employees who qualify for the funds. The new total appropriation is $113,000, an increase of $20,000 from the total approved on Nov. 22.

The council agreed to cancel its Dec. 27 meeting because of the holiday, setting the next regular meeting for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13, at the Auditorium.

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