Chapel Hill now stands alone in the county in its strict regulation of food trucks.
The Hillsborough Town Board unanimously passed an ordinance allowing food trucks at a Monday meeting after an unattended public hearing.
And Chapel Hill could follow suit as early as Monday when the Chapel Hill Town Council votes on a similar ordinance.
“I think if we don’t pass it, we will stand out like a sore thumb,” said council member Penny Rich.
The proposed ordinance, which would loosen restrictions on the use of food trucks, has sparked heated debate among members of the Chapel Hill community for months.
Chapel Hill looked at Carrboro for guidance when drafting its own ordinance.
In Carrboro food trucks must operate from lots with an existing non-residential building and have plumbing and electrical connections in accordance with the state building code.
Mayor Pro Tem Jim Ward said the council has had concerns about the health and safety standards of food trucks and the possible competition with brick-and-mortar restaurants.
Though most issues have been clarified, Ward said he worries the town will not see tax revenue generated by the trucks.
“Often these food trucks do not have their base in Orange County or Chapel Hill,” he said. “I would hesitate to allow them into the mix if they’re not going to be contributing.”
But Ward said he thinks the Hillsborough ordinance will help in Chapel Hill’s debate.
“Knowing that other communities have found ways to satisfy their concerns … indicates that I should give them the benefit of the doubt,” Ward said.
Rich said she doesn’t think tax stream will be an issue as long as the town can revise the ordinance if problems occur.
“If we see something is not working or we find there is some sort of abuse, we just have to make sure we take care of it,” she said.
Margaret Hauth, planning director for Hillsborough, said the permits will be capped at 10 food trucks while the town experiments with the ordinance.
Permits, which will cost $200, will be allotted on a first-come, first-serve basis and be available starting Jan. 1.
Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens said to level the playing field between food trucks and traditional restaurants, the trucks will not be allowed to operate inside the historic district, which includes Churton Street.
But Hauth said the town still has concerns, including the effect of the food and beverage sales tax on the food trucks.
The tax collects one percent from prepared food and beverages sold in the town.
Commissioner Frances Dancy said Hillsborough originally looked into the addition of food trucks as a way to boost tourism.
At the moment, she said the town has no plans to expand the program.
“We’re in a test run right now,” Dancy said. “We have to see how it’s going to go.”
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