Cedarburg food truck ordinance updated
Changes streamline application process

By Laurie Arendt

April 11, 2019

CEDARBURG — Though it’s only been two years since the city of Cedarburg created its food truck ordinance, it quickly became clear that, as written, the process was a bit cumbersome for applicants.

“As originally drafted, the Plan Commission had (the) authority,” explained City Attorney Mike Herbrand at Monday night’s Common Council meeting. “As the ordinance was drafted, the applicant had to go before the Plan Commission as part of the application process.”

This was in addition to review by staff and a background check by Police Chief Tom Frank. Depending on when the application was received, an applicant could be required to wait up to a month before receiving an approval to operate in the city.

“It’s largely a clerical review and the Plan Commission has approved the permits as long as the city staff recommended the approval,” said Herbrand.

The change to give the city clerk’s office authority over food truck applications was one of a handful of tweaks before the Common Council. A second revision was to include an exemption for food trucks sponsored by the city of Cedarburg for fundraising activities, such as the Friends of Cedarburg Park and Recreation hosting food trucks at the pool or parks.

“There are other exemptions already in place,” said Herbrand. “The city does not require a permit during festivals, the Ozaukee County Fair, farmers markets or Summer Sounds. Anyone bringing in a food truck for something like a graduation party is also exempt; that would be a situation where guests would not be paying for a cupcake or a taco and the truck would be hired for private use.”

“I get that putting the application before the Plan Commission just holds everything up,” said Common Council President Pat Thome. “The city clerk’s office would approve the application, but would they consult with the city planner at all?”

“If there’s an issue or some question, we probably would consult with (City Planner) Jon (Censky) or take it to the Plan Commission,” said City Administrator Christy Mertes.

But that really hasn’t been an issue since the ordinance was put in place, which was adopted in April 2017 after more than a year of discussion. Food trucks are permitted in Cedarburg on nonresidential private property, with the permission of the property owner, but not on public streets. Prior to this, food trucks operating in the city did so under direct sellers’ licenses, though the city received complaints that enforcement of the requirements – such as relocating every 15 minutes – was not occurring. At the time, the city hoped to outline a distinction between direct sellers and mobile vendors.

Since the ordinance was adopted, vendors are required to pay a $100 annual license fee, are limited to the number of appearances per year – no more than 12 – and must have the locations approved in advance. Additionally, mobile food vendors are not allowed to operate independently on a city festival day.

“I’m just a little concerned that, with this change, all of a sudden we have a ton of applications,” said Thome.

“There are also general operating restrictions on these licenses – they can only be open from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. they can’t have amplified music, they have to be on privately owned property,” said Herbrand. “Thus far, there’s only been a handful of applicants; it’s not a lot.”

The Common Council approved the changes on a 6-0 vote, with Council member Rod Galbraith absent and the 1st District seat temporarily vacant.