Oconomowoc Common Council approves food truck ordinance, increases fees

Gabriel’s Taqueria and Taqueria Doblado are both located on Wisconsin Avenue. The Oconomowoc Common Council passed a new ordinance that will subject both small businesses to higher annual permits for operating within the city.


OCONOMOWOC — The Oconomowoc Common Council approved an ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting that would increase fees for the food trucks in town, restrict how many could be in town as well as length of permits issued.

There were two separate votes on the matter. The first vote for the ordinance specifications was passed 7-1 with Alderman Lou Kowieski being the lone dissenting vote. The second vote

for the fees resolution was passed 62 with Kowieski and Alderman Chas Schellpepper dissenting.

The new fees are initial fees of $500 for a temporary permit and $1,000 for a permanent permit. Additionally, there would be a $450 fee annually.

As part of amendments to the ordinance, the council increased the total food trucks allowed in the city to 20 from 15 proposed in the ordinance, and increased the temporary permit length to go from 90 days to 120 so trucks could occupy the city from about Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Most of the items in the new ordinances went without discussion with the exception of location.

Kowieski made the argument — as he did at the Committee of the Whole meeting last month — that food trucks didn’t belong in the Downtown Oconomowoc Business District.

“We do have a downtown that has literally spent tens of millions of dollars to create what we currently have,” Kowieski said. “And what we currently have is not by accident, it’s by design. The food truck court in that area is not complementary in my opinion.”

The food truck court Kowieski referenced is to an idea from Mike Herro who said during the public hearing that he would be bringing a proposal to the council in the next 30 to 45 days to build a food truck court at 212 E. Wisconsin Ave.

Alderman Matt Rosek said he doesn’t think it makes sense to restrict a commercial entity in a commercial area like food trucks in the downtown area.

Rosek also made a point about the lack of substantial objection.

“If this is so bad for the downtown restaurants, I don’t know why the place isn’t packed with downtown restaurants telling us not to vote for this,” Rosek said.

Rosek said he talked with several owners and that the only big issue they have is patrons coming in to use their bathrooms without buying anything.

“If we can resolve the bathroom issue at some point I think most of those objections will be gone,” Rosek said.

With the passing of the new ordinance, Kowieski said as passed it was the worst ordinance passed in the last four years.

Kowieski said the ordinance wasn’t clear enough when it comes to food truck courts — saying the discussion during the meeting lend itself to say the passed ordinance didn’t apply to food truck courts even though they are mentioned in the ordinance.

“We either are addressing them in the ordinance or we aren’t,” Kowieski said. “We don’t have fees structured for food truck courts either.

“It’s not structured appropriately or as well as it should have and could have to provide for what we know is coming.”

During the meeting, there was discussion on if the food truck fees were too high for the work that needed to be done associated with approving the permits.

City attorney Stan Riffle said that city fees must be priced within reason of the actual cost of staff having to deal with permits.

City Planner Jason Gallo said associated fees with food truck permits are “spot on” for the work that would need to be done with each individual fee.

Schellpepper said he understood Gallo’s assessment of the fees and believes him that they are appropriate but still voted against the heightened fees.

“I don’t think we should be imposing additional fees, restrictions and hardships on businesses right now,” Schellpepper said. “ … But I do believe that the fees (Gallo is) identifying are reasonable according to the time needed to be put in.”