Towns put the kibosh on food trucks during Endless Yard Sale

dquizon@newsobserver.comMay 7, 2013 

The vendors taking part in June’s massive yard sale along U.S. 301 in Johnston County won’t include food trucks. The towns taking part in the yard sale have agreed to block them in hopes of bringing more business to their brick-and-mortar restaurants.

The Endless Yard Sale will feature families and antiques stores hawking their wares along the 30-mile stretch of U.S. 301 from Kenly to Benson. Organizers hope the sale will eventually grow beyond the county lines.

All towns taking part in the sale have agreed to adopt an ordinance barring vendors from selling food from a “mobile conveyance.” Selma Mayor Cheryl Oliver said she doesn’t want to take business away from local restaurants.

“The thrust of this (sale) is to boost Johnston County’s economy, and that’s the reason for the ordinance,” she said.

“We want them to explore our restaurants and our eateries,” she said of shoppers. “It’s all about local.”

The ordinance will exempt nonprofits from the ban.

The Selma Town Council is expected to vote on the ordinance at its next meeting. The Benson Board of Commissioners passed it last week.

Benson Town Manger Matt Zapp said the purpose of the ordinance is to stop mobile food vendors from “swooping in and taking business” from brick-and-mortar restaurants.

“We want to do anything we can to help local businesses in Benson,” he said. The ordinance passed in Benson without debate.

In Kenly, Town Manager Greg Dunham said the ordinance is on the agenda for May 13. The town already restricts mobile vendors year-round to protect local businesses. In Kenly, food trucks may operate for just 36 hours within a 72-hour period, five times a year.

Farmers selling produce and dairy products are exempt from the restrictions. “The theory behind the rules we have is to protect the businesses that are there all year round,” Dunham said.

Smithfield also has existing ordinances for mobile vendors. Food trucks must operate on a property at least 8 acres and near an existing business. Customers must have access to restrooms.

Under Smithfield rules, food trucks can essentially operate only in the parking lots of stores like Wal-Mart and Lowe’s, said town planner Paul Embler. The ordinance, he said, is designed to keep customers and vendors out of the path of vehicular traffic.

“For us, it’s a safety issue,” Embler said. “We don’t want them sitting right beside a real busy drive or something like that.”

In Smithfield, food-truck operators must have permission from the property owner, and they must obtain a permit from the town, a process that typically takes about 60 days, Embler said. It’s unlikely, then, that shoppers will see food trucks along the Smithfield portion of the county’s first Endless Yard Sale.

“There’s no way this year to accommodate it,” Embler said. “I’m not saying it can’t be done next year, but this year we couldn’t do it with the time we have now.”

Quizon: 919-836-5768

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