Van Buren residents will see a slight increase in their monthly mandatory residential solid waste collection fee.

Members of the City Council voted 6-0 Monday night to increase the rate 41 cents from $14.40 to $14.81.

Aldermen passed an emergency clause for the rate to go into effect immediately.

Steve Dufresne told the council the increase had been requested by Waste Management, which has had the city contract for waste collection since Aug. 17, 2009. He noted it was waste Waste Management’s first request for a rate hike.

“The Van Buren Municipal Utilities Commission reviewed the request and recommended the increase to the council,” Dufresne said.

VBMU keeps $1.48 of the residential solid waste collection fee while $2 goes to the operation of the residential yard waste collection and drop-off program operated by the city. The remainder goes to waste management.

The council unanimously voted to make changes to the city’s ordinance governing commercial trailer and mobile vending units.

City Planner Joe Hurst said the updated ordinance will be more user friendly for the planned food truck court at the new Veterans Park nearly completed in downtown.

The ordinance states a mobile food truck cannot operate at the same site for more than 120 days in a calendar year. A $100 permit must be obtained from the city clerk and vendors must register with the Van Buren Advertising and Promotion Commission for the collection of the city’s sales tax.

Festivals and events in downtown Van Buren approved by the city are exempt from obtaining permits from the city clerk.

A section governing smokers was stricken from the ordinance.

Several downtown business owners attended Monday’s meeting to voice their concerns about regulating smokers.

“We have had food vendors using smokers in downtown Van Buren for 40 years and never had a complaint,” said business owner Richard Hodo. “We don’t need this kind of restriction if we want to see downtown continue to grow.”

Hodo cited a businessman who recently purchased a building and adjacent parking lot for $200,000 to operate a gourmet hamburger and hot dog restaurant.

He said the fire marshal and health department already had approved his plans for a smoker in the parking lot.

“We need all the help we can get in downtown,” Hodo said. “We don’t need to stop a $200,000 investment.”

After much discussion, the council voted 5-1 to rezone property at 702 Poplar St. from two-family residential to a townhouse/zero lot line residential district.

Joseph Marrone said J&S Construction LCC planned to construct a three-family townhouse on the lot that features an incline.

“I believe this unique brand of housing will be a benefit to the nearby downtown and the city of Van Buren,” Marrone said. “I encourage you to focus on the great opportunity you as a council have.”

Alderman Jim Petty voiced concerns about the development, noting the new zoning distinction which was allowing a multi-family structure in a single-family area. Petty, who voted against the ordinance, suggested the council take more time to study the townhouse/zero lot line residential district.

Marrone noted a public hearing on held Feb. 7 and the planning commission had recommended the rezoning.

“Please make a decision for the city and for me tonight,” he said. “This has been going on since January.”

Alderman Alan Swaim noted the planning commission had recommended the rezone and made the motion to approve the rezone with a second from Darral Sparkman. Aldermen Tyler Wood, David Moore and Mike Kneeland also voted “yes” with Petty casting the lone “no” vote.”