Food was the hot topic Friday at Minneapolis City Hall.

The City Council approved expanding mobile food vending opportunities after trying it downtown last year. Separately, the council adopted a urban agriculture plan to stimulate Minneapolitans to grow food for consumption and profit.

The mobile food vendor expansion follows the somewhat-contentious debut of food sellers in trucks and trailers in downtown and is intended to open more neighborhood locations to them.

Restaurateurs and others will be able to sell from parking spots as well as pre-approved spots on sidewalks and private lots. They'll need an $806 annual license atop $391 in startup costs. They'll also need to operate for at least five months and stay 100 feet from a sidewalk cafe or a restaurant opening onto the walk.

Food carts had a slow debut downtown last year after a tug-of-war between regulators who wanted to issue licenses and downtown improvement district officials who raised concerns that heavy vehicles would damage sidewalks that businesses financed. Ten licenses were issued, and city officials expect to add about five per year.

Among areas approved for the expansion are park property, the Midtown Greenway, the Midtown Exchange area, Uptown, Cedar-Riverside, Central Avenue NE., and W. Broadway.

The urban agriculture policy adopted by the council results from the Homegrown Minneapolis initiative launched by Mayor R.T. Rybak more than two years ago. A task force had made more than 50 recommendations to the council.

"It is a big step toward food independence in this city," said Rybak, who said his household's contribution is to shop at local markets and cook locally grown food.

An analysis concluded that Minneapolis has enough land to accommodate expected growth for at least 20 years with enough for agriculture as well. The policy roughly defines types of agricultural activities not now defined in the city zoning code and urges that zoning be updated to allow them and their accompanying structures.

For example, it urges that people in most areas of the city be allowed, on a small scale, to grow food to sell. The council excluded low-density residential areas where residents might not want commercial activity next door.

Larger commercial farms would be permitted in commercial and industrial areas. The policy recommends that the city encourage rooftop gardening. And it urges that accessory structures such as plastic-covered temporary or permanent hoop houses, trellises and raised beds be given greater latitude. Those zoning changes are expected to follow this year.

In other action, the council denied an appeal filed by a traveling circus that city officials said hadn't taken the proper steps under city ordinance for a planned appearance at the city's convention center next month.

The council also approved participating in a $1.5 million business loan fund to be split between Minneapolis and St. Paul businesses affected by the Central Corridor light-rail construction.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438