Sherman Reduces Grease Trap Requirements

For many new and small restaurants, the process of opening a new location can be a complex and often expensive process with many requirements. One of those requirements will soon be reduced for restaurants considering Sherman as a possible home.

City Council voted unanimously Monday night to review and amend the city’s sewage ordinance and grease trap requirements. These changes will allow smaller restaurants, many of them downtown, to use alternatives to the standard grease trap to keep greases and oils out of the waste system.

“As you know, as small businesses came in, that ordinance was almost like a one-size-fits-all shoe,” Deputy City Manager Terrence Steele said Monday. like that and small businesses that don’t need these big grease traps to go in the floor, but to go under the sink and things like that.”

The requirement for a grease trap can be one of the biggest expenses for a new restaurant. Often the large appliance must be recessed into the floor itself in order to retain and store unwanted by-products of cooking. However, some restaurants that do not fry foods or cook with high oil foods may not need a full scale trap for the level of their doneness.

The Sherman City Council has lowered its grease trap requirements for small restaurants and those that don't use a lot of grease.  The change is expected to have a big impact on many future and existing downtown restaurants where a grease trap can be difficult to install.

“That’s what we’ve been hearing from business owners, would-be business owners, for years at this point: The city’s grease trap ordinances were inflexible and unnecessarily onerous, so we asked our water treatment officials to review the order and rewrite it,” Nate Strauch, director of community and support services for Sherman, said.

Strauch said those demands have led some companies to reconsider and abandon plans to open in Sherman. In particular, the downtown district has been hardest hit by these requirements, as footprints and limited space often leave little room for a large installation.

“These big grease traps usually have to stay underground and when you’re doing infill development like downtown, it’s not easy,” Strauch said.

In the past, these small users had to request an exception. However, the amendment allows them to use the smaller devices as of right.

In addition to allowing light users to use under-sink traps, the 2008 ordinance update also created definitions for food trucks and added them to the light user category.

Board member Pam Howeth asked how staff would determine who needs a trap. The sewage superintendent said it would be primarily based on the menu and type of cooking venue. Requirements could be updated over time as staff notice changes through regular site visits and building permit applications.

Bonny J. Streater