By T. Scott Boatright
Things got as hot and spicy as a Louisiana mudbug during Monday night’s Ruston Planning and Zoning meeting as commissioners reviewed and considered action on a request from Kyle Green and Dubach Deer Factory & Smokehouse to place a mobile food vending location to sell crawfish at 1601 N. Trenton St.
That property lies between Origin Bank to the south and the Trenton Dental Center to the north.
Green and partners Mike Smith and Andy McIntyre requested use of the property as a one-time food truck location to be used through June 30 or whenever crawfish season ends.
Green said that operating hours for the location would be on Thursdays through Sundays from either 5 – 9 p.m. or noon to 5 p.m. with no alcohol sold and crawfish available for take-out only.
The property between the vacant lot and Origin Bank contains the empty residence of Smith’s late grandmother.
“All of the details are still being worked out, but I expect the property — both lots — to be sold as commercial property sometime later this year,” Smith said.
Green said that is no legal impediment for the location not to be used for food-truck operation.
“The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has already approved it and the Louisiana Department of Transportation has approved the site,” Green said. “There is a picnic table there for people who want to sit and wait for their food, but the goal is for people to be able to drive through, get their food and go.”
Green said there might be a little cooking done on site but that the “vast majority of the crawfish will be cooked at what he called “the commissary” in Dubach.
Still, the thought of a food truck at the location or it being used as commercial property was not pleasing to several nearby residents in attendance at Monday night’s meeting.
Loyce Miller, who lives on Ridge Drive, half a block behind the property requested for the food truck, is one of those unhappy residents.
“Excellence made here — we started out with that in mind,” she said. “(La. Highway 167 — North Trenton Street) would be developed with excellence in mind. Why put a food truck next to a dignified, beautiful building? There is a well-structured plan for commercial zoning keeping Ruston’s dignity in mind. Acceptance of a food truck is the exact opposite of excellence. It’s sliding into failure.
“Traffic along Hwy. 167 is always full of traffic moving too fast and logging trucks making driving hard. Businesses along the highway have always been well-maintained through the years. The presence of a mobile food unit does not conform. … The city appears headed down a hodge podge track where anything goes. There’s no footpaths, no sidewalks and a highway that is well-traveled.”
Pat Garrett is another area resident who voiced concerns over the idea.
“I, my family and many of my friends oppose this,” Garrett said of the idea of allowing a food truck at the location. “We oppose it for many reasons, but my primary one is about safety. Six months ago I was traveling south on 167 and a car came out of Super 1 and went through the first two lanes fine but then came across the third line and T-boned my truck, which was knocked over into the bank building. It totaled my truck and I’m still recovering from that. This is a safety problem. Even more people are going to be going in and out of there crossing heavy traffic. And I oppose that.”
Nearby residents Dev Altic and Stokley also expressed their concerns over the idea.
“We are building my dream home on Chautauqua Street abutting this area, and I’m concerned about nearby residents,” Altic said. “I want to make sure city Zoning is protecting the residents. Kyle answered some of my questions but the smell sitting out on my back porch is one thing I’m worried about. I just have reservations about it because of how much money I’m spending on what I think is my ‘forever home.’ I’m not opposed to crawfish. I go to eat crawfish at Kyle’s place in Dubach. I just want zoning to protect me as a resident.”
Things seemingly reached a near boiling point after commissioners began trying to decide on the issue.
Commissioner Sarah Warren first proposed approving the location for the location but failed to get a second on that motion.
Then Commissioner Julie Mays made a motion to deny the request and then briefly was seemingly seconded by Commissioner Sam Costanza. But as he seconded Mays he said that “given this proposal is a one-time thing, I second the original proposal (made by Warren).
That caused confusion based on parliamentary procedure.
“There’s a motion on the table and that would have to be denied,” city attorney Bill Carter told the commissioners.
Commissioner Karl Puljak then seconded the motion to deny the request, which failed by a vote of three to two (Warren, Costanza and Wilbert Ellis against denying and Mays and Puljak in favor of denying. Commissioner Otha Anders was absent from Monday’s meeting).
So then Warren again made a motion to approve the request, with Warren, Costanza and Ellis voting in favor of approving and Mays and Puljak voting in favor of denying the request, meaning it was approved by a vote of 3-2.
Voting on the final item on the agenda, an application for conditional use for a food truck owned by Heavenly Sno-Balls 2, LCC, was postponed until next month’s meeting because not all application paperwork had been completed and filed in time for the meeting.