Second time is the charm for Airstream food trailer plan

Aldermen OK seasonal downtown eatery after initially expressing concerns

A PROPOSAL TO place an Airstream trailer similar to the one shown here in a small grassy area at the corner of Franklin and Pier streets in downtown Port Washington (top photo looking southeast from Pier Street) was approved by the Common Council Tuesday. Press file photo
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

Nick and Melissa Suddendorf received a conditional use permit Tuesday that will allow them to operate an Airstream trailer as a food truck in downtown Port Washington.

The Common Council approved the permit 6-1, with Ald. John Sigwart dissenting.

The permit is good for 10 years, after which the couple will have to reapply, according to an amendment to the permit approved 4-3, with Sigwart and aldermen Jonathan Pleitner and Dan Benning dissenting.

That amendment was proposed by Ald. Mike Gasper, who said that it will help discourage anyone from operating a trailer in downtown in the long term.

“I don’t want to prevent it from happening. I want it to be a short-term thing,” Gasper said, adding that he hoped that a successful business would ultimately want to locate in a building rather than a trailer.

The Suddendorfs have proposed placing the Airstream on a grassy lot that they plan to buy along with the adjacent building. They would operate the trailer from May 1 to Oct. 31, using it as a concession stand to sell ice cream, sandwiches and other treats. 

A fire pit, tables and chairs, decorative lighting and landscaping would be added to the site.

The council had sent the proposal back to the Plan Commission for further review last month. The commission reiterated its support, bringing the issue back to the council.

Ald. Pat Tearney questioned whether the commission had looked at the issue of allowing a trailer in a historic district, something that was not discussed.

City Attorney Eric Eberhardt told aldermen that while city ordinances don’t permit a trailer in downtown, if it is defined as a part of an eating or drinking facility, the Plan Commission can decide it meets the code, which it did.

While most aldermen were enthusiastic about the proposed trailer, not everyone agreed. 

Barrett Genson, 1822 New Port Vista Dr., told aldermen he isn’t against the idea of an Airstream food truck but is concerned about the proposed location at the corner of Franklin and Pier streets in the heart of a historic downtown.

“I can’t believe you’re really considering it. How is it compliant to put a trailer on a lot in downtown?” he asked the council. “As an architect, I just don’t get it. I think it just doesn’t fit. It doesn’t look right.”

Sigwart agreed in comments he made  during the public comments portion of the agenda, saying that he found public opinion split on the issue of allowing a food trailer in downtown. 

“I oppose the trailer in the historic district,” he said.

Sigwart said he was also concerned at the lack of conditions in the permit and at the lack of detail in the site plan, which he said did not show the topography of the property and how stormwater runoff would be affected by the development.

“You’ve taken a very casual attitude toward what I consider a prime piece of property downtown,” he told the Suddendorfs.

He suggested a series of conditions be added to the conditional use permit, but they were not adopted by the council.

Suddendorf told the council that the couple envision the trailer to be a place for families to gather downtown, comparing it to the popular Port beer garden.

“It’s what we had in mind,” he said. “The focus isn’t really the trailer, whether it’s historic or not. You need something to sell ice cream and goodies from.”

Ald. Deb Postl was enthused about the idea, saying, “I love this. I’ve received overwhelming support for the Airstream.”

The city has nothing to lose, she said. If it’s successful, it will draw people to downtown and they will spend money at the businesses there. If it isn’t, the parcel will go back to being a grassy lot.

“We have everything to gain,” she said.

Pleitner agreed, saying many people his age with young families are excited about it.

“It’s one more thing to do downtown with our kids,” he said.

Benning concurred, adding he likes the fact the trailer would be located in the back of the lot.

“Having it in back is good because driving down Franklin (Street) you’re not going to see it,” he said.

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