The debate over allowing food carts to remain on the Brunswick Town Mall overnight will continue March 5 thanks to a 7 – 2 vote to send the issue to a public hearing.

Councilors Kathy Wilson and Suzan Wilson brought the idea of a potential ordinance change to the council on Feb. 6, after being approached by vendors that utilize the mall for their food carts. Currently, the vendors pay $2,000 a year to use pads the town built for their carts, but must remove them every night by 10 p.m.

The additions to the current ordinance, as amended by council, would allow cart owners to pay an additional $2000 fee to remain on the Mall overnight. Coupled with leaving them overnight, owners must remove their cart by 10 p.m. prior to any day they won’t be open, and also remove their cart at least one night a week.

Additional requirements council decided on are two lidded 35-gallon trash receptacles that the cart owners are responsible for acquiring and emptying, recycling bins on premises, responsibility for any damage to town equipment, and a change to overnight allowances from six to 10 nights a season. The allowance provides cart owners that don’t pay the overnight fee the ability to leave their cart after 10 p.m. in the event of mechanical failure or other issue as long as they notify the town.

The $2,000 overnight fee was initially set at $200, but Councilor Steve Walker made a motion to increase it.

“Two-hundred-dollars is almost laughable, the vendors are going to be saving that in gas,” said Walker. Multiple times in the past, he has opposed the sale of public land for monetary gain, most notably in the controversial sale of 946 Mere Point Rd. That sale, which saw extensive debate, resulted in a petition requesting a referendum vote and eventually court cases when the petition was rejected.

Walker said that the town has already shown its willingness to sell public land, and if it continues to do so it should get as much money as possible. “If we’re going to sell out, we should make it worthwhile.”

Councilors approved the increase to the fee, with the understanding that making the ordinance less restrictive or expensive down the road is easier than increasing it.

“Just to remind everyone, this is the more restrictive thing, and it can be drawn back,” said Councilor David Watson.

Other councilors opposed on the grounds that the benefit would be to a few vendors, and not the town at large. “I just think it’s a misuse of a town asset to give it away and allow the trucks to stay there all night every night,” said Councilor Jane Millett.

All members of the public that spoke about the potential ordinance opposed public hearing as well, aside from the cart owners themselves.

“I think it should go to a public hearing, I think the public should be the ones to decide,” said Bill Dufrense, who operates B.B’s Grill, a barbecue truck. “It is the public’s mall, it’s part of the town, it’s part of the culture.”

The trucks, he said, also serve as an additional attraction to the downtown, drawing in more tourists. “They shop, they go downtown, they spend money.”

Ultimately, council decided to support the idea of sending the issue to a public hearing, to allow them to weight in to the debate. The hearing will take place on March 5 at the Brunswick Town Offices during the council’s regular meeting.

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