Proposed changes would ease Kzoo food truck restrictions

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — New rules being proposed in Kalamazoo would ease restrictions on food truck operators within the city limits.

The Kalamazoo City Commission completed the first reading of the proposed ordinance at its Monday meeting.

Assistant City Planner Peter Eldridge says the changes are needed to modernize the regulations with the current needs of the industry.

“We realized that we were having some deficiencies that food truck operators in the city were talking about how our fee wasn’t in alignment with what other communities were charging,” Eldridge said.

The proposal would lower the yearly fee from $500 to $300, remove the cap on the number of licenses and allow food trailers. The ordinance would also require fire marshal safety inspections.

“In 2012, the city adopted its first ordinance for food trucks,” Eldridge said. “We took a more conservative stance.”

Food truck operators like Fred Blackwell, the owner of Freddy’s Food Hut in Kalamazoo, say the changes would be a step in the right direction.

“The reducing of that fee,” Blackwell said. “They will also give us a little bit more areas where we would be able to operate, and I think that would be a good thing.”

Trucks will still not be able to operate within 150 feet of an open restaurant.

Some vendors have praised cities like Grand Rapids for being friendlier to food trucks and are hoping this ordinance could drive Kalamazoo down a similar path.

Operators like Freddy’s Food Hut are hopeful the changes can help grow a more vibrant mobile food scene.

Blackwell says his truck does better in sales when other trucks are parked nearby, making the food truck experience a destination with many options.

“They have a better choice, a better option and it makes it fun to come down,” Blackwell said.

The ordinance is expected to be voted on at the next city commission meeting on Jan. 20.