RALEIGH — With their low prices and creative dishes, food trucks have become a popular meal option - especially among young people whose tastes outpace their budgets.
But it has been hard to pick up on the trend in Raleigh, where a proposed food truck policy plodded for nearly a year through rounds of negotiating sessions and public hearings.
A breakthrough came Tuesday. Food truck operators celebrated passage of long-awaited rules allowing them to do business on private property, a victory that came over objections from restaurant owners wary of four-wheeled competitors.
Raleigh doesn't now regularly allow food trucks. The trucks are permitted only for special events. The decision will usher in a new era on the local food scene.
But don't expect convoys of food trucks to roll into Raleigh by lunchtime. The new rules, which take effect Oct. 1, require vendors to meet several conditions before they can start dishing out lamb sliders and butternut squash pizza.
Among the key limits:
Food trucks can't park on public streets or within 100 feet of the main entrance or outdoor dining area of a restaurant.
Trucks parked near residential areas must close by 10 p.m., while others can stay open until 3 a.m. Violators can be fined up to $300 or kicked out of town after the third offense.
Sensing the potential for confusion, Raleigh officials said they would publish a manual explaining the new rules.
"I'm not crazy about the proposal as it stands, but I'm very encouraged something was done," said Lucas Kinnin, a Raleigh native who plans to open Local Motive, a food truck that will serve biscuits and breakfast wraps made with local ingredients. "We're happy to have a start."
Kinnin's truck will initially be based in Durham, where rules are less stringent, but he hopes to make frequent visits to Raleigh.
Not like Durham
Council members Thomas Crowder and John Odom opposed the measure, citing the potential for food trucks to attract noisy late-night crowds.
"We're moving way too fast," Odom said. "I don't think the city of Raleigh is going to fall apart if we don't have food trucks. I'm not looking forward to being like Durham."
Parker Kennedy, owner of downtown's Caffe Luna, sat on the front row at recent meetings and spoke against the policy. Kennedy struck a conciliatory tone after the decision. "I'm happy it worked out for the food trucks," he said. "And I wish them the best of luck."
Council members agreed to do a review in the spring to evaluate any problems.
"It is important that we put it out, kick the tires and see where we are in six months," Councilman Russ Stephenson said.
Other Triangle communities are wrestling with their own regulations. In Chapel Hill, town leaders are weighing a plan that would require trucks to park on paved, privately owned parking lots already serving restaurants or bars.
The Chapel Hill proposal, slated for discussion this fall, would allow trucks to use restaurant parking lots only when the restaurant is closed.
Steve Valentino, owner of Valentino's Italian food truck, said he'll bring his meatballs and Steve-O Hero sandwiches to Raleigh this fall, assuming he can meet the requirements.
"I'm always looking for new spots," he said. "That's the reason why you're mobile."
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