Milton aims to keep mobile vendors out of city

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Neil Johnson
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
MILTON--There will be no tacos from a truck, no ice cream from a van.
Candy, hotdogs or crab Rangoon from a cart? No can do.
Not in Milton. 
If a proposed ordinance gets traction in Milton—and it appears it will, judging by comments from city council members skittish about outside competition and saturation of tiny local niche markets—mobile vendors will not be allowed to operate on public property in Milton.
The council nearly unanimously approved a proposal by city staff this week to draft a city ordinance prohibiting most mobile street vendors from selling goods on public property in the city.
City officials say the mobile vendor rule would not apply to nonprofits holding fundraisers, vendors on private property or farmer's market vendors who sell vegetables and other goods from stands at public locations in the city.
Alderman Don Vruwink voted against the potential ordinance.
He told The Gazette that Goodrich Park and the Parkview Drive business district, which is taking on a more family-focused and pedestrian-friendly flavor, could benefit from having mobile vendors.
“There's going to be a group of people at the (Goodrich Park) splash park that could get served by such businesses,” Vruwink said. “It's a shame. We're losing an aspect of business that we could create. Competition serves good,” Vruwink said.
At the same time, the city plans to sell concessions from a gazebo at the splash park.  
Alderman David Adams this week called mobile vendors “squatters” who undermine and undercut local bricks-and-mortar businesses whose owners Adams said pay property taxes and have worked to pay their dues in Milton.
Vruwink said he believes the city could charge an annual fee for mobile vendors that would be comparable to local business property taxes.
The city now has no rules on the books for mobile vendors.
It's a void in city code exposed in May 2012, when a taco truck owned by Los Agaves, a Delavan Mexican food restaurant,
At the time, the city sold Los Agaves a $25, yearlong direct seller's permit, the type of permit normally parsed out to mobile businesses that sell goods door-to-door.
“It really is not the appropriate license,” City Administrator Jerry Schuetz said this week.
It wasn't long before bricks-and-mortar businesses in Milton began to complain about the Los Agaves taco truck and the competition it posed.
One local gas station in the west side Merchant Row business district kicked the taco truck off its property, and other businesses there complained to city officials that the truck's presence was messing things up for taverns and restaurants—particularly during taco nights at those establishments.
The city asked the taco truck to move to the east side business district, in a public parking lot along Parkview Drive. Officials said it was a better fit because there are fewer restaurants on the east side.
The taco truck has since left Milton, and now parks along the Main Street bridge in downtown Fort Atkinson.
At a council meeting this week, Milton ice cream shop owner Robert Tracy went head-to-head with Beth Drew, a Milton restaurant owner who bought a mobile ice cream van she'd planned to use to sell treats to youths at sports events in Milton.
That idea didn't go over well with Tracy, who owns the Cone Zone, an ice cream shop along West High Street on the city's far west side.
Tracy pointed out that the main youth sports complex and one of the main parks where drew would sell ice cream are “right across” from the Cone Zone.
Drew told The Gazette she was disappointed in the council's direction on mobile businesses. She said the city could find ways to manage mobile vendors and the issue of competition if they really wanted to.
“Put a cap on how many mobile vendors you can have. Say you can only have five. Set a limit,” Drew suggested.

Last updated: 2:12 pm Wednesday, July 17, 2013

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