Ice cream trucks in Prairie Village: A rite of summer, or a pain in the neck?

The frequent and loud sound of ice cream trucks in northeast Johnson County has a group of Prairie Village residents perturbed.

By Chris Heady

For many, the sound of an ice cream truck’s music and bell brings back fond childhood memories of cold treats on hot summer nights.

But for a vocal group of Prairie Villagers who say the trucks are too loud and come through their neighborhoods too often, that same music provokes annoyance and even anger.

Joe Houston, who lives on 69th Street, says he’s tired of hearing the truck on his street on every nice sunny day. He took the following video of an ice cream truck lingering on his street in late April:

“They are driving me crazy,” Houston said. “They are loud and I want the city to tell them to turn off the music. Maybe require soliciting licenses?”

Houston says he’s heard the trucks up to six times in a day — and he isn’t alone. Chuck Baldee, who lives on 77th Terrace, is also perturbed by the ice cream trucks’ frequent visits past his house.

“An ice cream truck is a novelty, maybe once or twice a year kind of a thing, but every single night at 5:30 when I’m trying to feed my 5-year-old daughter salad, this ice cream truck comes with a loud siren trying to sell my daughter a $5 popsicle,” Baldee said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Baldee’s frustrations are compounded by the fact that he runs his own food vending business out of a vehicle — but Prairie Village ordinance prevents the “Chef Baldee’s Pizza” truck from stopping and operating in a city right of way. Though he could obtain a license to operate on private property — like in the parking lot of a commercial development — on a short term basis, he couldn’t set up shop on a city street. Because the ice cream trucks can sell their goods without needing to be stationary to prepare the product, they don’t violate city code.

“It’s ridiculous to think about that I can’t even park on my street — I can’t even park my (food) truck on my street and not sell my food — and these people can do what they’re doing,” Baldee said. “We are two different animals, yes, but from consumers perspective, he’s selling food, I’m selling food.”

Prairie Village Assistant City Administrator Dennis Enslinger said the city is open to considering changes to city code that would allow the operation of food truck on the city right of way “if there is an interest expressed in this issue.” Any revisions to city code would have to be approved by the city council.

Frosty Treats, the Kansas City-based company that operates the trucks that frequent Prairie Village neighborhoods, said it has not received any more noise complaints than usual this year, and declined to comment further on the noise its trucks make.

As for the noise, Enslinger says the city has limited avenues for recourse.

“There is nothing we [the city administration] can do about the noise,” Enslinger said. “Noise is addressed by the police department and that would be disturbing of the peace.”