The half-renovated 1976 Airstream trailer that sits in Steve and Nancy Williams’ driveway in Carrboro represents their plan to make some extra money in tough economic times.
After Monday’s Chapel Hill Town Council public hearing, the Williams are one step closer to operating their food trailer in Chapel Hill.
Kendal Brown, the town’s development principal planner, introduced a new draft of the proposed food trucks ordinance that would allow food trailers to operate in Chapel Hill outside of downtown. Previous drafts of the ordinance prohibited food trailers in all zoning districts.
“The staff was initially envisioning these large trailers squeezing into small lots,” Brown said. “But we have since noticed that trailers come in various sizes and could be accommodated in the areas outside of downtown.”
The proposed ordinance, which the council is expected to consider Nov. 21, would allow food trucks both in and out of the downtown district.
Outside the town center, the proposed limit on the number of food trucks or trailers per parking lot has been relaxed from one truck per 100 spots to one per 30 spots. Previously, lots were capped at one truck downtown and two outside of downtown regardless of lot size, but that also has been reversed.
The permit process was also revised in this draft to allow a food truck operator to use a single permit to operate at multiple locations in town.
Planning board members have said they support the entrepreneurial aspect of food trucks, but the fact that they can’t regulate and tax food trucks’ sales is a problem. In accordance with state law, Chapel Hill cannot require vendors to divulge tax-payment information to the town, Brown said.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce also worried that food trucks could present competition to brick-and-mortar restaurants. The chamber suggested that the town require the food trucks be connected to a base in Orange County, but the town attorney said Chapel Hill cannot legally require this.