Food truck talk brews again in Farmington

Farmington Mayor Bill Galvin tried to attach a unique requirement Monday to the approval of a downtown business’ special event requests, because both would bring in mobile vendors – more specifically, food trucks.

Only council member Greg Cowley, whose family owns a downtown restaurant, supported Galvin’s motion to approve Farmington Brewing Company’s 2nd Annual Pig Roast, slated July 9, provided that Rose Township-based Barlow’s Gourmet Sauces joined the Greater Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce. Galvin expressed his concern that allowing mobile vendors creates an environment for “predatory business practices.”

“We’re essentially allowing a business to come in and make a profit for a day, without making any contribution to our community,” he said. “I want to see these businesses become part of our community.”

City council member Sara Bowman agreed with comments about looking to get vendors engaged with the surrounding business community, but not the membership requirement.

“I would not be comfortable with a motion asking a business to do something that is not within our special events policy that we just spent so much time working on,” she said, adding it was “definitely something we could engage in conversation.”

Although city manager David Murphy confirmed that the request was outside the city’s month-old policy, and city attorney Beth Saarela agreed that officials did not have the flexibility in the policy to require the membership, Galvin himself offered the Chamber-contingent resolution, “to send a message.”

No mobile vendor policy

Galvin felt the requirement could be added because the city has no official policy for mobile vendors, and the event policy is just a guide, since it’s not codified as an ordinance. Murphy said city administration is “looking toward” a policy, but it will take time to complete.

“I want the profits to stay here,” Galvin said. “I’m not suggesting that we don’t approve the event.”

Representing Farmington Brewing Company, co-owner Jason Hendricks seemed clearly frustrated with the discussion, which has been repeated with previous event applications. The business, which does not serve food but carries some items and menus from local restaurants, most recently held a St. Patrick’s Day event that Galvin and Cowley also opposed.

“You guys need to work on this before we get here,” he said, “because honestly, I feel like we’re coming up here, and we face the inquisition every time.”

Hendricks also shared a text message he received from an owner of the Basement Burger Bar, who said his restaurant business increases every time Farmington Brewing Company has an event. “These events bring attention to Farmington.”

Galvin’s motion failed; a motion offered by Bowman without the contingency passed 4-1. Officials then quickly approved Farmington Brewing Company’s request for its second anniversary celebration in November, with only Cowley voting against both motions. Hendricks said owners are working to get downtown restaurants to take part in that event.

Galvin later apologized to company owners for making them the “poster child” for the mobile merchant issue, but added, “I need to support all of our downtown businesses as equally and as fairly as I can.”

Correction: The original version of this post incorrectly reported the vote on Bowman’s motion, which passed 4-1. 

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