Food trucks OK'd in Raleigh—with lots of restrictions | Citizen | Indy Week
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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Food trucks OK'd in Raleigh—with lots of restrictions

Posted by on Tue, Sep 6, 2011 at 4:09 PM

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The City Council voted 6-2 this afternoon in favor of TC-5-11, an ordinance allowing food trucks to operate in a very limited number of places under a very restrictive permitting regime. Still, it's a beginning for the upstart vehicular food emporia, and it only took how many months of squabbling? In the end, Councilors John Odom and Thomas Crowder were the lone no votes.

Crowder's not a fan of food trucks setting up shop in a business district that borders a residential neighborhood — a commonplace in his District D, especially around N.C. State University — and being allowed to operate until 3 a.m., which is what the ordinance permits unless a house is located within 150 feet of the truck. In that case, the trucks must close down at 10 p.m.

(A last-minute change put the food trucks on the same late-night, 3 a.m. closing plan as stationary food carts — e.g., hotdog carts. The penultimate version of the food-truck ordinance had them closing at 1 a.m.)

Odom said he's on the side of the restaurant owners who fought having food trucks anywhere near their establishments. "I don't think the city of Raleigh is going to fall apart if we don't have food trucks, Odom said. He added, a bit gratuitously, that's he's not interested in Raleigh being like Durham, where food trucks are a happening thing.

On the other side, Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin, who chairs the Law & Public Safety Committee, worked for a year to fashion a compromise that the restauranteurs didn't hate and the food-truck operators could live with. In the end, she couldn't quite manage to satisfy either, but she did manage to get a version of the ordinance out of her committee even though Odom and Eugene Weeks, the other two members of her committee, both opposed it. For that, food-truck proponents gave her the credit.

And when the ordinance came to the Council table today, lo and behold Weeks was for it, saying he likes the six-month trial period that Baldwin added at the last moment. Mayor Charles Meeker, mayoral candidate Nancy McFarlane, Bonner Gaylord and Baldwin's fellow at-large Councilor Russ Stephenson all voted yes as well.


***

So where will the trucks be allowed under the ordinance? It's easier to say where they won't be allowed: In a residential zone; in most office zones; within 150 100 feet of any restaurant's front door or outdoor eating area; and in any vacant lots.

They will be allowed in parking lots that are part of a big shopping center, a neighborhood-business district, a thoroughfare-business district, or an industrial-business district, as long as the owner of the parking lot wants them there — and there's no restaurant within 100 feet or house within 150 feet.

No more than three food trucks will be allowed in the same lot, however, and three only if the lot is an acre or more.

Food trucks are prohibited on all streets, including in marked parking spaces.

In short, the ordinance designates no areas where they trucks are invited to go, and no areas for the multi-truck rodeos that draw the big crowds. Rather, it's a set of rules about where they can't go.

But if a food-truck vendor can find a host business in a place that's not off-limits, an annual permit can be had —- by the host business — for $224.

All the rules, said Travis Crane, a planning staff member who's been working with Baldwin, means a night-life district like Glenwood South "would be largely tied up" — that is, no food trucks will get in.

Odom, though, thinks there are plenty of places on Boylan Avenue, at the edge of Glenwood South, where food trucks will be able to operate even though they shouldn't be allowed — because of their proximity either to restaurants, residential neighborhoods or both.

We'll see if he's right. But even if he is, if the point of a food-truck ordinance is to welcome the trucks to downtown Raleigh, this version doesn't seem to fill the bill.

Rather, it prevents food trucks from setting up in most of the places where people are, which of course is where the restaurants are.

Still, a few food trucks may gain a toehold and prove their worth, paving the way (so to speak) for others.

It'll be awhile before we know: The ordinance taken effect until October 1.

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