Food trucks, city still at odds over proposed regulations

More than 60 people, including nearly 20 food truck owners and an attorney with the Institute for Justice in Arlington, Va., met Tuesday night with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department to argue against controversial proposed changes to food truck regulations.

Food truck owners complained that the proposed regulations would negatively affect their operations and bottom lines. They have launched a petition that now has several thousand signatures.

More than 60 food trucks operate in Charlotte, offering everything from cupcakes to fajitas to grilled cheese, and employing hundreds. More than a dozen gather for the weekly Food Truck Friday in South End and draw crowds of up to 3,000 people.

One of the food truck owners’ biggest concerns is a proposed rule that would prevent food trucks from operating within 100 feet of a restaurant, nightclub or bar.

The planning department announced Tuesday that it had decreased the distance to 50 feet.

But David Stuck, co-founder of The Tin Kitchen, a food truck and catering company, said even that would make it difficult to serve many of their regular clientele, such as local craft breweries that don’t serve food.

That wouldn’t be allowed under the proposed regulations because of the 50-foot requirement. Food Truck Friday, which is held on an empty lot across from Phat Burrito on Camden Road, also would be prohibited.

Food truck owners also are opposed to the proposed permitting regulations. Owners now need a permit for every location, and it expires after 90 days. The proposal would allow a vendor to have a one-year permit for up to three locations.

But food truck operators said they’d like to have one permit that would allow them to set up throughout the city.

Planning Manager Katrina Young said that type of permitting would make it too difficult for city staff, such as the health department, to track food trucks down, if needed.

Other rules under consideration are designed to make it easier for the vendors. The changes allow for longer hours of operation and make it easier for food trucks to gather.

The city last overhauled food truck legislation in 2008 and 2009, after complaints from police and residents that taco trucks catering to laborers coming home from work were attracting crime and causing noise and traffic.

The resulting ordinance – which limited hours, banned vendors from within 400 feet of a residential district and only gave them 90 days to be in one location – caused the food truck industry to fall from nearly 70 to a handful.

There will be another citizen advisory meeting May 29.

The planning department hopes to have a final recommendation for the City Council on Sept. 15, Young said. The council would then vote on the proposed ordinance in October.