Durham Central Park, farmer's market officials surprised by food truck proposal

aweigl@newsobserver.comJuly 4, 2012 

Officials with both the Durham Central Park and the Durham Farmers' Market said Tuesday they were surprised by city officials' proposal to ban food trucks and other vendors from the streets surrounding the park.

Both Matthew Coppedge, president of the park's board, and Charles Samuels, a member of the farmer's market board, said they were unaware a new policy was in the works. "I don't want people to think the Durham Farmers' Market had a hand in writing these regulations," Samuels said late Tuesday.

The public can attend a hearing about the new rules from 5:30-7 p.m. Monday, July 9 at Durham City Hall in the audit services conference room on the first floor.

Samuels said market manager Erin Kauffman met with the park's board, city parks and recreation officials and an assistant city attorney in March 2011 but hadn't heard anything from city officials since. Coppedge said the discussion centered on unlicensed and unauthorized vendors in and near the park when the market meets on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings.

"We were looking for guidance from Durham Central Park and the city," Samuels said. (Samuels' partner, Phoebe Lawless, is a vendor at the market and owner of Scratch, a downtown Durham bakery.)

Both men added that their organizations support the park's vibrant scene. In fact, the park board teams up with food trucks to host a regular gathering of 30 or more food trucks that attracts hundreds of people to the park.

On Monday, Durham officials sent out a press release announcing the proposed food truck rules, which not only ban trucks around the park but also ban food trucks within 100 feet of the front entrance of a restaurant unless the truck has the owner's permission.

The rules appear to not only affect food trucks but anyone selling from "a vehicle, cart, stand, table, or other device or thing, whether or not wheeled." There is a similar restriction around the Durham Bulls ballpark.

Durham has long been considered the friendliest town in the Triangle to food truck entreprenuers. Raleigh and Chapel Hill have similar restrictions in place based on protests from restaurant owners. Neither city has as vibrant a food truck scene as Durham.

In Durham, many food trucks have had a long-standing practice of parking on the peripherary of the farmer's market. In fact, Brian Bottger, who owns the Only Burger truck and restaurant, had recently obtained a permit to close off part of nearby Hunt Street to create a designated area for food trucks during the market. City officials told Bottger that his permit could be revoked if these new rules are approved.

On a recent Saturay morning, Bottger said there were not only food trucks but folks selling lemonade, t-shirts and frozen food. "I didn't see business licenses anywhere," said Bottger, who also serves on the Durham Central Park board. "It's getting a little chaotic. I can understand people wanting to get it under control."

Durham City-County Planning Supervisor Grace Smith, noted that the city wants to stay friendly to food trucks in Durham. She pointed out two other proposed changes help the trucks. City officials want to remove a rule that require trucks to move 60 feet every 15 minutes and another rule that required truck owners to obtain a mobile cart permit.

Go HERE to read the proposed rules.

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