Food truck restrictions may loosen

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Chapel Hill welcomed its first food truck about two weeks ago, and more meals on wheels could soon be on the town’s streets if the Chapel Hill Town Council revises what some are calling a restrictive ordinance.
Baguettaboutit, which sells french-bread wrapped sausages, is the only food truck permitted to operate in Chapel Hill.

Its owner, Rob Gardner, said he had wanted to operate in the town since the council passed an ordinance in January allowing food trucks to operate in private lots.

After the council received only one permit application— from Baguettaboutit — since the ordinance was passed, councilman Lee Storrow asked the council to revise the ordinance to make it less restrictive.

“Under the current ordinance, it is clear we will have minimal participation from the trucks,” said Storrow.

It requires food truck owners to pay an annual $600 fee, as well as a $118 zoning compliance fee.

Storrow said many food truck owners have said the costs deter them from moving into Chapel Hill.

“They felt like we created a culture and a climate with the way we talked about the ordinance that we didn’t want them here,” he said.

“When you compare the costs, it just doesn’t make economic sense for entrepreneurs to apply for a permit from Chapel Hill.”

Gardner said he decided to purchase a Chapel Hill permit because his friends and family are here.

“I think everybody would prefer if it wasn’t as expensive,” said Gardner. “But we all live in Chapel Hill, so it’s crazy we couldn’t be there.”

Other food truck owners look forward to coming to Chapel Hill too.

Michael Beggen, one of the owners of the Triangle food cart Sweet Water Ices, said he is eager to bring his all-natural Italian ice to Chapel Hill.

The ordinance applies equally to food carts, he said.

“With the Triangle, we want to go to all three cities,” Beggen said. “We are hoping to go to Chapel Hill next year.”

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said he hopes food truck owners will participate in discussions about revising the ordinance this fall.

“Our rules are done out in the open,” he said.

But Kleinschmidt said other businesses have expressed concern about the competition food trucks could bring to Chapel Hill.

Storrow said he hopes the council will be able to balance the interests of food trucks and traditional restaurants.

“There is a real opportunity with food trucks,” he said. “We just need to find a new way for them to operate with our brick-and-mortar stores.”

On Thursday, Chapel Hill and WCHL are co-sponsoring the town’s first food truck rodeo in honor of WCHL’s new broadcast channel, 97.9 FM.

“This is the first one, and it’s big,” Lauren Stafford, marketing coordinator for WCHL, said.

Stafford said ten trucks, including Baguettaboutit, will be at the food truck rodeo, which will be held at the WCHL studio at the VilCom Center at 5:30 p.m.

Contact the desk editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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