Durham's proposed rules roil fans of food trucks

Restaurants have unfair edge, some say

CorrespondentJuly 9, 2012 

Food truck supporters expressed concerns at a meeting in Durham City Hall on Monday night about proposed new rules that could limit mobile vendors.

The city is revising regulations to address concerns of vendors, restaurant owners who don’t want mobile vendors on their doorstep and special-event holders, said Grace Smith of the City-County Planning Department.

The Durham Alliance for Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which food truck owners established to provide information about the regulations, applauded consolidating the rules for mobile vending and eliminating a requirement that vendors move their vehicle 60 feet every 15 minutes.

It expressed concerns about other changes, such as:

• Preventing food vendors from setting up on public property, such as parks and rights-of-way, within 50 feet of a restaurant without the permission of the business. The exclusion does not include private property. The initial ordinance prevented food vendors from setting up on public property within 100 feet of a restaurant, but city officials shortened the distance to 50 feet Monday.

• Establishing a Durham Central Park Exclusionary Zone, which prevents food vendors from setting up at or near Central Park whenever the farmer’s market is in session. On Monday it was announced that regulation had been removed.

• Limiting where food trucks can set up downtown, including within 300 feet of Five Points, CCB Plaza, the corner of Mangum and Parrish or any other city-owned or controlled property when that space is permitted for special events. City officials stressed Monday night the 300 feet was a maximum area.

• Limiting food trucks to one parking space where parking spaces are designated.

Most of the comments from the overflow crowd at Monday’s night’s information session centered on concerns that the rules limit truck locations and create an unfair advantage for brick-and-mortar restaurants.

Nick Johnson, co-owner of the Cookery, said exclusionary zones blur the lines the between public and private property.

“If it is public right of way it is as much mine as it is yours, as it is anywhere else,” he said.

Next steps include city staffers going back and revising the proposed ordinance based on the feedback, presenting that new draft to the public and then eventually making a presentation to the City Council, which will ultimately have to approve the changes.

However, City-County Planning Director Steve Medlin stressed that he doesn’t expect the proposed ordinance to reach the City Council until the fall, at the earliest.

In Raleigh and Chapel Hill, meanwhile, elected leaders are considering loosening their food truck rules.

Nine months after passing the city’s first food truck policy, Raleigh has issued permits to just 18 food trucks to set up in a total of 11 locations.

In Chapel Hill, no truck operators had applied as of late June.

Staff writer Matt Garfield contributed to this story.

Bridges: 919-564-9330

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