BRUNSWICK – Though it is unlikely the policy will change this summer, the Town Council on Monday talked about allowing food trucks to park on the premises overnight.
The idea would revive a convenience previously allowed to vendors – whose trucks are frequently blocked by parked cars in the evening – but it faced strong opposition from the downtown district councilor who recoiled at making the park a garage.
The Council also set a public hearing for May 15 to extend an emergency moratorium on retail marijuana sales until Nov. 17.
Six food trucks operate on the town mall, and while they are not restricted by hours of operation, they cannot park on the mall overnight.
Bill Dufrense, who operates B.B.’s Grill barbecue truck, said the constant back and forth on and off the mall causes damage to the bricks that comprise the sidewalk.
Leaving the vehicles overnight, he argued, would reduce wear and tear on town property.
But what he and Twist N’ Dip owner Terry Goan identified as a major problem Monday was the blockade of parked cars along the mall that frequently prevents vendors from leaving after they’ve closed for business.
“There were many nights (last year) that we were not off the mall until 10 p.m.,” he said, which was hours after he’d shuttered the business.
In those cases, he and Dufrense described having to return later to remove their vehicles.
The council was sympathetic to the inconvenience, but not sold on the idea – especially downtown Councilor Jane Millett, who protested the proposal three separate times over the course of the hour-long discussion.
“I just feel very strongly that it’s not a good thing,” she said, concerned the trucks would be an aesthetic blemish along the park, which the council spoke of as a beloved centerpiece of downtown life.
“It’s not the purpose of the mall to garage food trucks,” she said.
Town Manager John Eldridge told the council that the ordinance used to allow overnight parking, but it was changed in 2002 at the urging of neighboring business establishments.
Subsequently the same year, Parks and Recreation Director Tom Farrell said a petition signed by over 1,500 people passed to let truck vendors store equipment overnight up to six times a year, with advance permission from Farrell’s department.
In 2002, only Councilor David Watson was on the council, and he said he recalled even then that the issue was complicated from both sides and, given its remote history, the matter deserved deeper consideration than Monday’s discussion.
As such, the council put off drafting an ordinance amendment to a future meeting and instead will poll area business owners, residents, and the Brunswick Downtown Association about how to move forward.
In response to the November 2016 passage of a statewide referendum to legalize the retail sale and use of marijuana, the council followed suit with a number of neighboring towns and passed an emergency moratorium on retail sales.
The ban was put in place to block local retail applications before the state Legislature has had an opportunity to form is licensing rules. A state moratorium is in place until February 2018.
A group of town officials has been working since November to study the potential economic, health and safety impacts of the law in Brunswick.
Assistant Town Manager Derek Scrapchansky said the group has consulted with municipal officials from Maine and states where pot sales have already been legalized to prepare language for a regulatory ordinance in Brunswick.
The Brunswick Town Council revived a debate May 2 over whether to allow food trucks park overnight on the town mall.