Food trucks would be kicked out of some Raleigh areas where they now operate if city leaders approve proposed development regulations.
The city is in the process of applying new development rules to about a third of Raleigh, or 35,000 properties. In many cases, the new zones would allow for a wider variety of development and business uses, including certain types of retail in residential areas where retail is now prohibited.
In some cases, though, new zones would impose harsher restrictions on certain development and business operations.
Most of the new zones, particularly those downtown, will continue to allow food trucks. In fact, the new zones would increase the total operating area from 25,300 acres to nearly 27,300 acres, according to Travis Crane, a Raleigh planning and zoning administrator.
Areas around Western Boulevard, Blue Ridge Road and Wake Forest Road would open up to food trucks.
But the remapping effort would prohibit food trucks in some areas where they’re currently allowed, such as portions of West Peace Street, North Person Street, Five Points and Brier Creek in northwest Raleigh.
Food trucks fall under a zoning category that allows development such as gas stations, hotels, auto repair shops and pawn shops. The proposed zones aim to protect neighborhoods from those types of uses, Crane said.
It’s unclear if businesses and residents in those areas want to rid themselves of food trucks, or if food trucks are innocent bystanders in an effort to prevent other uses.
Regardless, food truck advocates say the changes are enough to hurt the businesses.
To make a living, most food truck operators need to find some place in the Triangle to serve lunch and dinner every day.
“We want food trucks to be where people want them to be,” said Art Sheppard, who writes about the trucks on his blog, The Wandering Sheppard.
The trucks are often ventures for people aspiring to greater goals, and they need every opportunity available to them, Sheppard said.
“A lot of times they’re stepping stones for people who want to one day open a restaurant,” he said. “Or maybe they just want to launch a barbecue sauce. Either way, it limits further progress and innovation.”
Generation Opportunity, a nonprofit organization that advocates for young people, launched a webpage to petition the Raleigh City Council to allow food trucks in mixed-use districts. The petition had 1,400 signatures by the end of Wednesday.
“We see Raleigh as a vibrant city with many opportunities for young people,” said Alex Johnson, director of the nonprofit’s North Carolina chapter.
“This is another hurdle for young entrepreneurs at a time when there’s a 13.8 percent youth unemployment rate across the country.”
Without getting into specifics, most council members said they’re willing to consider allowing the food trucks to continue operating in all mixed-use districts under certain conditions.
“The policies we have on food trucks right now are working. I haven’t had a lot of complaints,” Councilwoman Kay Crowder said. “Food trucks haven’t been a controversial point, so I’m open to tweaking the rules.”
Councilors Bonner Gaylord and Mary-Ann Baldwin want not only to protect existing food truck operating zones but also consider loosening some of the regulations introduced in 2012.
“This is likely one of many tweaks we’ll make as we recognize the implications of the remapping,” Gaylord said. “We should look at additional opportunities to expand their scope.”