Raleigh, NC: Food Truck Decision at a Standstill

By Ariella Monti | Raleigh Public Record

Jesus Garcia, owner of Tacos el Corral, said that his Dunn-based family business was operating out of two Raleigh gas stations.

A new ordinance regulating food trucks is at a standstill after Raleigh City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee decided Tuesday that more research is necessary before bringing the topic back to the full council.

Food truck regulations have been discussed by City Council and the Planning Commission for the past several months. The rules will govern where food trucks can set up shop and when they can operate.

With more questions raised by council members about enforcement and proximity to restaurants and residential homes, Committee Chair Mary-Ann Baldwin asked city staff to provide the group with an assessment.

The report will include who would be responsible for enforcing the law, during what hours and what kind of collaboration would be needed between the inspections and police departments.

Baldwin asked that the report also include the effect of allowing food trucks 100 feet from a restaurant property line versus 150 away from the front door, or 150 feet from a residential property line, including single and multifamily homes in the downtown area.

The results could determine if the proximity restrictions would inadvertently ban food trucks from operating downtown.

The report will be presented at the next committee meeting Aug. 30.

Baldwin also suggested a number of recommendations, including the creation of an operating manual, increasing the permit fees from $76 to $150 and a review of the ordinance six months after implementation.

Restaurant owners and food truck operators have requested equal provisions. Councilor John Odom explained there were far too many differences within the industries to make it equal.

“We’re never going to have a level playing field,” he said.

While noise coming from food truck customers was discussed at length, Councilor Eugene Weeks said that one of his chief concerns, emissions, wasn’t even discussed at the meeting.

“We don’t need to rush into it,” Weeks said of the ordinance.

The standstill came as a blow to food truck operators who were hoping for some sort of movement on the ordinance so they could begin or continue working.

Jesus Garcia, owner of Tacos el Corral, said that his Dunn-based family business was operating out of two Raleigh gas stations. One of those trucks is a franchisee who hasn’t been able to work.

“That’s $1,500 a month that’s not coming into my family for the past six months,” Garcia said.

“We have a constitutional right to work,” said Mike Stenke, owner and operator of Klausie’s Pizza Truck.

Stenke said he finds it unfair to restrict food trucks to 150 feet away from a restaurant and on private property, while push carts have a restriction of 50 feet and can work on public property. He also pointed out that restaurants have the ability to open up next to each other, but food trucks are going to be restricted to at least 100 feet.

Food Truck Owner Claims Police Harassment

Stenke and his food truck were the focus of a complaint made by an anonymous 911 call while he attended the City Council meeting on July 19. Stenke was at the council meeting to listen to debate about potential new food truck regulations.

Listen to the 911 call. (wav)

The caller complained that Stenke’s truck was illegally parked in a metered spot the wrong way in front of City Hall on West Hargett Street.

Stenke said he was approached by a Raleigh police officer who questioned his parking and asked to see his business license.

“This was blatant intimidation,” Stenke said.

No official charges were filed against Stenke because he was in the process of moving his truck when the officer arrived at the scene, according to a police department spokesman.

http://www.raleighpublicrecord.org/news/city-council/2011/07/26/food-truck-decision-at-a-standstill/

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