Council punts food truck ordinance until May meeting

Council punts food truck ordinance until May meeting

By Tabitha Evans Moore, EDITOR & PUBLISHER

LYNCHBURG — After hearing the concerns of several area food truck operators, the Metro Council decided to go back to the drawing board in regards to the new Metro Moore County Food Vending Ordinance. No action was taken during Monday night’s meeting, and instead, several council members will form a working group to create a second iteration of the ordinance that will be presented to the entire Metro Council in May.

The first reading of the proposed, first-time ordinance passed during the March meeting by a 9-3 margin.

As the legislative body here in Moore County, the Metro Council must pass any new law before it gets added to the books. According to a recent rules change voted on by local citizens in the most recent election, resolutions (informational) and ordinance (laws) must pass two separate readings in two separate meetings before adoption. The threshold previously was three separate readings.

During the March meeting, the three no votes – Gerald Burnett, Greg Guinn, and Robert Bracewell – pushed back against the ordinance for multiple reasons. {To read out complete coverage of the March meeting, click here.}

Putting local small business at risk

Several area food truck operators were allowed to speak at Monday’s meeting including Jacob Cooper. He and his wife, Rebecca Cooper, own the Whiskey Waffle, which owns both a location specific food truck just off the Lynchburg Square as well as a mobile food truck that visits regional events.

Cooper explained that the proposed ordinance “just isn’t really realistic for what we’re doing here” further explaining that the proposed $200 permitting fee for his Lynchburg location far exceeded the $50 fee the couple pays in Murfreesboro – a city with over 20 times the population of Lynchburg.

Cooper also took issue with the local ordinances prohibition against permanent connection to public utilities like water, sewer, gas, or electric.

“We have been plugged in for two years and haven’t had any issues. We did the power, so we didn’t bother them with a generator, which we thought would be mindful of everybody. We’re just trying to do it the right way.”

The Coopers do have an ongoing lease on the property they utilize off the square, so any new law that places them in non-compliance could potentially adversely affect the local small business owners.

“We put thousands of dollars into it, and I just don’t want it to get taken overnight,” Cooper added.

“This is our first attempt at writing this ordinance,” Metro Council Chair Amy Cashion told Cooper. “There’s nothing in this ordinance that can’t be changed to better suit. I don’t think it was the purpose of this ordinance to shut down anybody’s business.”

“Make it worth our while to come here.”

Lisa Womack with The Sammich Shack also addressed the Metro Council with concerns about the proposed cost of the Lynchburg permitting fee.

“I think every town should have an ordinance. We should have to follow rules just like anybody else does,” Womack stated. “But when it comes to the permitting fee, Tullahoma charges $250 a year, but they prorate that depending on what month you come in. Winchester has a $300 permit fee. However, those are the two largest towns around.”

Womack also explained that other towns much larger than Lynchburg such as Murfreesboro, Nashville, and Manchester only charge a $50 per year fee. She also explained that the Tullahoma ordinance currently prevents food trucks from setting up within 500 feet of a school, but like the Lynchburg Girls Softball League, many groups are choosing to do away with concession and allow food trucks to come in instead in exchange for a small donation.

“The last thing I wanna have to do is pay a permit fee here and pay a permit to set up at the park when I’m donating money back to that,” Womack explained. “I want to give back, but I also want everything to be reasonable to make it worth our while to come here.”

“Just trying to make a living.”

In the end, food truck operators say they are just attempting to live the American dream of entrepreneurship while building a legacy.

“We are not here getting rich by no means. We are here making a living. I was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago, and when I went into remission the last thing I wanted to do was go back to work for somebody else,” Womack explained. “I opened a food truck and I have done very well with it. Not getting rich. I’m paying my bills and making sure my kids have something to go to if they decide they want to do it after me.”

Sunny Rae Moorehead made the motion to table the discussion until May. Peggy Sue Blackburn seconded the motion. It passed unanimously.

Several members of the Metro Council will meet on Monday, April 29 at 5:30 p.m. at the American Legion Building in a working session to recraft the food truck ordinance. That working session will be open to the general public and any food truck operator or interested citizen is invited to attend. •

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