BURTON — The planning commission approved a one-year special use permit for a Grand Blanc man to open a food trailer at a lot on Davison Road, across from the General Motors Parts Plant at Davison and Genesee roads, June 8.
While it wasn’t the three-year permit owner and operator Stanley Wright had asked for, the commission said one-year would allow the city to see if Wright’s food trailer works out not only for the city, but for residents living near the site.
Wright came before the planning commission to ask for permission to open a food truck on a vacant lot he owns at Davison Road and Wilmer Street, directly across from the GM Parts Distribution plant.
Currently, food trucks and trailers can only be set up for 10 days, but he asked for a special use permit allowing him three years to remain open so he could use profits from the operation to build a permanent takeout restaurant on the lot, which is zoned C-2 for commercial use.
Wright said he purchased the lot April 20 for a business venture with members of his family, as well as some friends. The business is a Soul Goode Food Truck which originated in Texas where he said his wife’s cousin currently operate two of these franchises.
He said he originally wanted to set up on the adjoining property at 4349 Davison Road, but the property was not available to he purchased the vacant lot next door.
He has been working with Kraft Engineering & Surveying on a preliminary site plan to see what’s feasible and for what can be developed on that lot in terms of a building.
“We understand what is feasible, how large of a building we can have,” said Wright. “I’m seeking at least three years to generate the revenue to build that carryout facility. I would still maintain the mobile food truck and that would be an extension of the carryout facility for catering or just moving around Michigan.”
Wright, a U.S. Army veteran where he was a cook said he has worked in various industries, has a bachelors and two master’s degrees and, until recently, spent nine years working in public accounting. He is a certified public accountant in Michigan and Ohio and recently left his job to focus full-time on the Soul Goode Food Truck.
“This is something for me that is a big deal. It’s something I can’t allow to fail, it’s something I won’t allow to fail,” he said. “I would love your approval and being able to establish that unit there, however, whatever decision is made we want to keep pressing forward and become operational.”
Jo An Farrand, a resident who lives on Wilmar Street, which is right next to the empty lot Wright wishes to use for his food truck, said she is concerned about traffic on her street.
She said there is no parking on Wilmar Street, and she is concerned if Wright places tables for outdoor eating at the site, there will be no room for his customers to park but down her street.
“It’s a very small lot,” she said, “Once he set up all of his stuff, he’s not going to have room for people to park to come to his business. My main concern over it all is the trash that’s going to end up in my yard and all the way down our street.”
Debra Dewar, also a resident of Wilmar Street, said her concern is noise potentially caused by a generator typically found on food trucks and trailers.
“We were already deceived with the shop right across the street. We put up with too much noise over there” she said. “It was a quiet little neighborhood when I moved in 12 years ago and now, I’m contemplating moving right out of Burton because I feel like I’m not in the right area anymore.”
Wright said he thinks parking will be adequate and does not plan to use a generator while at the site, preferring to hook up to a city electrical pole or the business next door, which is owned by a family friend.
Amber Abbey, deputy director of the Department of Public Works, said parking “absolutely is a concern.” She said just because the planning commission approves the request, doesn’t mean Wright and his business don’t have to abide by the law.
“There’s still a noise ordinance, there’s still no parking (on Wilmer Street). There are still police tickets that can occur. There is still trash that will have to be picked up,” she said. “All of those are things that has absolutely nothing to do with his approval and can always be enforced.”
She said the truth is Davison Road is a commercial zone and there will be a business at that location someday. Currently the only request is for a three-year permit to operate the food trailer, not a site plan approval on a structure.
Planning Commissioner Neil Martz said the site could sell a projected 500 meals a day deliver, which is 45 meals an hour, promoting him to question the plans for six parking spaces at the site.
“If your staff takes five spaces, that leaves you with one. I don’t know how you’re going to service 45 meals an hour, or 500 meals a day, with one parking spot, so I thoroughly think the provisions for off-street parking are highly inadequate,” he said. “Secondly, I don’t know if you plan on drive-up or walk-up at this point in time and if you’re planning walk-up there’s no provisions for pedestrian movement between the site you’re parking on and the site you’re sitting on.”
Martz also raised questions about the site operating year-round and he asked whether the trailer would be winterized, as well as concerns about trash and a lack of restroom facilities.
Wright said he would work out parking arrangements with another business nearby and would be completely responsible for trash. The trailer, he said, is currently in Houston, Texas undergoing winterization so it can operate year-round.
“I understand and respect that there is a residential neighborhood right behind me,” he said. “This is meant to be a walk-up business. I am strictly in that location because of that parts plant. I understand the importance of location,” he said. “Even though it was a small parcel of land, that was the purpose of getting a preliminary site plan drawn up to show the feasibility, what could happen.”
Planning Commissioner Kevin Burge said he thinks it sounds like Wright wants a successful business and is willing to work with the city.
“He seems trustworthy and he doesn’t want the neighbors after him every day,” said Burge, adding he thought giving Wright a year to see how it goes and then have him return to see how things went and to look at a possible site plan for his permanent restaurant at that time was reasonable.
The commission voted 4-2 in favor of giving Wright the one-year special use permit to operate the food trailer with no generator used at the location, before coming back in one year for further consideration.
Commissioner Don Jones and Martz voted against the motion.