Mobile vendors have established a presence as a lucrative model in Soldotna.
The city’s planning and zoning department and the owners and operators of the migratory businesses have agreed the setup is mutually beneficial.
City staff, the Planning and Zoning Commission and the owners of Blue Moon Burgers initiated the discussion about creating policy that would address the requirements of operating the unique businesses within city limits at a commission work session Wednesday.
“It is good to let all vendors come in because it benefits the city,” said commission member Colleen Denbrock. “It is good for us and it is good for them.”
Soldotna’s city Planning and Geographic Information Systems Technician Austin Johnson said the current permitting process required of the vendors is burdening for both parties.
Permitting standards need to be in place that minimize the time staff is focused on approval and enforcement and does not burden the business owner, Denbrock said.
Commission Vice Chair Brandon Foster said regulations should address safety, parking and access.
Standards should focus on aesthetics to maintain a focus on downtown beautification efforts, which are a challenge to fairly enforce, said Commission member Jenny Smithwick.
Signage standards will likely fall under signage code, Johnson said. Mobile trucks will likely have to adhere to the same requirements permanent businesses do, he said.
Vendors need to apply for a temporary use permit to operate in Soldotna during any time of year, Johnson said. The process is an umbrella for anything interim, including weekend street shows, market or fairs, he said.
Since the majority of Soldotna’s revenue comes from sales tax, creating a “business friendly” atmosphere in the city is critical, Johnson said.
No other revenue source brings in more than $1 million annually for the city, whereas sales tax accounted for about $7.85 million in 2015, according to the 2015 fiscal year operating budget.
Nearly one dozen mobile vendors, including food and non-food merchants, have sought permits in the city in the last three years, Johnson said. That is three to four per year, he said.
Businesses have sold anything from ammo to food to fresh fruit inside the city, Johnson said. They are low impact businesses since they don’t require any kind of construction to set up, he said.
Harlene Bartlett, owner of Blue Moon Burgers that sits just outside city limits, attended the work session.
“I think the city is on the right track with this,” Bartlett said. “Everyone is willing to work with everyone on this.”
Bartlett said she is planning on keeping her trailer at the same location next season, since she built up a client base there.
Johnson said the plan is to develop the new permitting season for vendors looking to set up shop for the 2015 summer tourism season.
Reach Kelly Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.