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The Daily Tar Heel

Chapel Hill could change food truck ordinance, making it simpler to obtain a permit

Melissa Key/DTH
Roberto Garcia, 17, of Burlington works at the Taqueria Del Jalisco food truck located at 206 E. Main Street. The truck is open from 6pm-1am Tuesday to Saturday for late-night taco cravings.

Students and Chapel Hill residents could see more food trucks in the near future if both Town Council members and owners of food trucks can agree on regulations.

Currently, food trucks can only operate in Chapel Hill with special, hard-to-acquire permits, but Kendal Brown, the town’s current development principal planner, presented the draft of an ordinance that could make that easier.

Brown said at an informal meeting with vendors Monday that the permits would not require Town Council approval, but vendors said the plan restricts the number of food trucks on one lot and could still pose problems.

The new plan

The proposed ordinance would allow food trucks to operate in private parking areas with at least 10 parking spots and a non-residential building.

“That number is a little bit arbitrary and can be changed,” Brown said.

To comply, downtown food trucks would have to be located in a place where it would not interrupt pedestrian right of way or vehicles. Only one truck would be allowed per parking lot.

Vendors outside of downtown could also operate in neighborhood and community commercial districts. Multiple food trucks could be located in one parking lot but could not exceed one per acre or two per zoning lot.

Trucks could not provide customer seating.

“No public lots, we’re talking strictly private lots that are zoned for commercial use,” Brown said.

The vendors would also have to obtain an annual zoning compliance permit and an annual privilege license from the town. Prices for permits have not been determined, Brown said.

Mark McCurry, Chapel Hill’s mayoral aide, said some council members worry food trucks would drive taxes away from the town if their kitchens are based somewhere else.

The council is also concerned the food trucks would drive away business from brick-and-mortar establishments, McCurry said.

To combat that, the plan would prevent food trucks in downtown areas from operating while the lot’s brick-and-mortar business is open, Brown said.

Vendor Input

Vendors opposed the plan’s one-per- acre food truck regulation, saying the town could miss opportunities.

“At the food truck round-up that we had a week and a half ago, there were thousands upon thousands of people,” said Carol Edenton from Will and Pop’s food truck, referencing a Durham gathering.

Jody Argote of Carrboro’s Parlez-Vous Crepe suggested the town look at Portland’s food truck model, which designates public areas where an unrestricted number of food trucks can operate.

“They took areas that were not particularly attractive and revamped them,” she said. “The trucks just stay there.”

The planning board will meet on Sept. 20 to discuss the regulations and consider vendors’ comments. The Town Council will tentatively hold a public hearing Oct. 17th, Brown said.

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