Milwaukee food truck ordinance to create designated zones; coalition says it's willing to sue

NOW: Milwaukee food truck ordinance to create designated zones; coalition says it’s willing to sue

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A pair of Milwaukee alders are on the verge of releasing a proposed ordinance meant to overhaul how the city governs food trucks. 

A coalition representing 19 food truck operators from the city's south side indicated Tuesday they're willing to sue the city if they find the new ordinance to be too restrictive.

Alders Jonathan Brostoff and JoCasta Zamarripa said they expect the draft of their ordinance to be introduced no later than Thursday. While they declined to offer many specifics about the ordinance, saying they were still applying the finishing touches during a conversation after Tuesday's Common Council meeting, Zamarripa said one element of the proposal would be designated food truck zones.

"We certainly don't want to ban food trucks. We don't want to ban streets [where they can operate] anymore," Zamarripa said. "I think that that was a misstep that the council made years ago, under our predecessors."

Zamarripa said a goal of the ordinance would be to create uniform standards for across the city, and specifically, a set of rules for zones aimed at preventing overcrowding.

"We can't have immense density," Zamarripa said, "Where we're compromising the public safety of trying to drive through the area, turn through the area, walk through the area."

Walter Garron, a liaison for the group called Taco and Food Trucks Unidos, said he supported the idea of designated zones, as well as density limits within them, but worried the ordinance would make too many parts of the city off-limits for food trucks.

"We worry that there's going to be more red zoning, more [bans] at some point," Garron said. "If not banning, then they're going be changing regulations, that they have to move often from where they're at."

Garron said the group had lawyers on standby after meeting last week with Brostoff and Zamarripa. He said the coalition was willing to ask courts to block the ordinance if it believed the new rules were unreasonable.

"We've been advised from them to hold on and to see what they come up with," Garron said. "And if it's good, great. We can all coexist and move on. If it's not, then we're prepared to move up in a legal way."

Garron said his concerns the council might take a heavy-handed approach stem from the temporary ban on food trucks along Water Street between E. Knapp Street and E. Pleasant Street. He argued the ban punished everyone over the actions of a few.

Zamarripa emphasized the ban was temporary and added it was only meant to serve as a pause until a more comprehensive citywide ordinance was on the books.

"We're not trying to permanently remove anybody," Zamarripa said. "But we are trying to come up with a strategy that allows food trucks to be able in places like on Water Street without compromising the safety of our constituents."

The alders said their goal was to have the ordinance receive a public hearing next week at the committee level. Should it advance, the full Common Council could take it up on May 31.

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