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Brookline selects food trucks to launch pilot program

By Brock Parker
Globe Correspondent / April 15, 2012
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Food trucks could roll into Brookline this week after the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday approved licenses for five vendors to participate in a pilot program this spring and summer.

Baja Taco, Compliments, Paris Creperie, Pennypackers, and Renula’s Greek Kitchen won approval to set up food trucks in town at specified locations and times for the next six months.

The board approved the lineup of food trucks by a 4-1 vote, with Selectman Richard Benka opposing the plan, after a Tuesday night hearing in Town Hall that included residents and local merchants speaking for and against allowing them to set up in Brookline.

Selectwoman Jesse Mermell said she sees the pilot program as a solid start, and a chance to add vitality and creativity to the community. “If it doesn’t work out, food trucks are inherently temporary,’’ Mermell said. “We can simply have them drive away if we decide this is not the right thing for Brookline.’’

Mermell was joined by the board’s chairwoman, Betsy DeWitt, Nancy Daly, and Ken Goldstein voting in favor of the plan, which will allow food trucks at four sites: 1842 Beacon St., near Cleveland Circle; 940 Commonwealth Ave. and 11 St. Mary’s St., both near Boston University; and 1622 Beacon St. in Washington Square.

After a hearing last month drew opposition to having food trucks near Coolidge Corner, the town dropped the area from its list of approved sites. As a result, several of the nine vendors who had applied for a license decided they were no longer interested, said Kara Brewton, Brookline’s economic development director.

But removing Coolidge Corner from the pilot program did not assuage all of the opposition to food trucks among neighborhood residents.

Muriel Haber, who lives on John Street, said she is afraid that food trucks will bring trash and odors, and the town should be “classier’’ than that.

“It feels like we’re bringing down Brookline,’’ Haber said.

Joe Rastellini, the owner of T. Anthony’s on Commonwealth Avenue, and other local merchants objected to food trucks competing with restaurants that pay property taxes and high rents in Brookline.

Benka voiced similar concerns, saying food trucks ideally would be located in an area without other restaurants and where retail businesses might benefit from foot traffic drawn by the mobile vendors.

But some did speak in favor of the program, including Green Street resident Nichole Fonsh, who said food trucks should be given a chance.

“Just because they have wheels doesn’t mean they can’t add some sort of permanent vitality to the area,’’ she said.

DeWitt said the six-month trial period is needed to assess whether the food truck program is right for Brookline.

“We need to do a pilot to know,’’ she said.

Brewton said officials are working out the details and conducting the final inspections, but the first food truck could arrive on Tuesday - the day after the Boston Marathon runs through the town.

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