Chapel Hill cuts food truck fees, adds locations

tgrubb@newsobserver.comMay 14, 2013 

— The Town Council cut the cost of operating a food truck by more than half Monday and voted to allow them at more events and locations.

The decision reduces the $600 annual fee for a typical food truck to $200. A $118 zoning compliance permit still is required for each lot, plus a $25 business license.

The council also agreed to permit food trucks for catered functions, food truck rodeos, farmers markets and other special events.

The new rules will go into effect for one year, starting July 1. Town staff will monitor the results and could suggest changes next year.

Special events, such as rodeos and fundraisers, will cost the event organizer $200 and each non-licensed truck, $25. The event fee will be waived for nonprofits, and catering fees will be negotiated with the event host. While food-truck operators won’t have to pay the annual regulatory fee to serve special events, they will be required to have a Health Department inspection certificate.

Police legal adviser Matthew Sullivan told the council the regulatory fees will help pay for town inspectors to make sure food trucks are complying with zoning, parking and other rules. The zoning permit fees will offset the time that planners spend reviewing business and food-truck operation plans, he said.

Town staff initially thought a lower fee wouldn’t cover the cost of inspections, but Sullivan said the lower fee could attract more food trucks, thus raising revenues.

Food-truck operators have balked at the cost of doing business in Chapel Hill since the town’s food-truck ordinance was approved in January 2012. Only one vendor – Baguettaboutit – and one property owner have permits. Trucks also are limited to commercially zoned lots located at least 100 feet from any restaurants. That makes it hard to generate enough customers, food-truck operators have said.

While Chapel Hill’s fee will be more affordable, other cities still charge less to operate a food truck.

Durham vendors pay a $10 fee, a $25 business privilege tax, and if they operate out of a home, a $26 home occupancy permit fee. Raleigh vendors can operate in commercial areas after getting a privilege license and paying $150 for a food truck retail sales permit and $78 for each location.

Carrboro limits food trucks to commercial areas, too, but the fees are low: a one-time $75 fee for a mobile food vendor permit, a land-use application permit and an annual business privilege license.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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