Food trucks looking for answers at Monday’s Metro Council meeting

The Whiskey Waffle food truck sits in its permanent spot just off the Lynchburg Square. It’s among several area food trucks that could be impacted by a Mobile Food Vending ordinance up for final approval at tonight’s Metro Council meeting. | A Lynchburg Times Photo

LYNCHBURG — On Monday, the Metro Council will consider the second and final approval of a new Mobile Food Vending or food truck ordinance. The ordinance originally appeared on the March agenda and received initial approval by a 9-3 margin.

Amy Cashion, Houston Lindsey, Bradley Dye, Arvis Bobo, Sunny Rae Moorehead, Jimmy Hammond, Shane Taylor, Dexter Golden, and Marty Cashion voted yes. Greg Guinn, Gerald Burnett, and Robert Bracewell voted against the the new ordinance.

A laundry list of requirements

In the verbiage, the ordinance requires the following: a fire inspection completed by the Fire Marshall, a Metro business license, a Moore County Health Department license, a government ID, a vehicle registration, proof of liability insurance, color photos of the food truck, a letter from the business owner is on private property, and a list of all the counties in which they’ve done business in the last 12 months.

Additionally, any location-specific food truck like the Whiskey Waffle, which operates in a permanent location just off the Lynchburg Square, would need to provide a site plan to the Metro Planning Commission for approval, statements detailing the clearance of the structure, as well as proof of employee access to restrooms.

Food truck operators need to check all these boxes and pay an annual permitting fee of $100 for a mobile food truck and $200 for a location specific food truck. This would be in addition to the optional $125 food truck membership the Lynchburg Chamber currently offers. For that membership, the Chamber acts as the liaison between food trucks and private property owners and establishes a schedule that prevent trucks selling similar items from operating in Lynchburg at the same time.

“With a limited number of restaurants opened a limited number of hours in Lynchburg, we just wanted to offer locals as many options as possible to both locals and tourists while also encouraging small businesses,” Lynchburg Chamber President Marsha Hale said.

The Lynchburg Chamber worked recently to help secure a spot for food trucks at the Lynchburg Church of Christ but since then the owners of that lot rescinded permission for food trucks to operate there based on “neighbor complaints.”

“No food truck will want to come here.”

Much of the Metro Moore County proposed Mobile Food Vending ordinance matches exactly the verbiage of a Franklin, Tennessee ordinance – a city with over six times the population of Metro Moore County.

It’s a fact that local food truck operator Rebecca Cooper took issue with on her social media page.

“The council has decided that there will be a new food truck ordinance put into place. Which is understandable with all of the food trucks coming in and out of Lynchburg, there should be rules. But the ordinance that they are trying to pass has been copied and pasted from Franklin, Tennessee and is not realistic for Moore County,” she stated.

“When the rules don’t make sense and businesses have to jump through all of these unfair hoops to make a living, they aren’t going to come to Lynchburg. If this ordinance gets passed at the meeting this Monday, not only will the two permanent food trucks (Whiskey Waffle and Boba Shack) have to shut down and move somewhere else, but none of the other food trucks will want to come to Lynchburg.”

A side-by-side comparison of the resolution presented in March and the one included in the April Metro Council meeting package did reveal a slightly pared down ordinance.

Overkill and overreach

During open discussion, several council members seemed to think the seven-page ordinance felt like a bit if overkill and overreach.

“A lot of this is regulated by the State. It just seems like they aren’t going to be able to do some of these things being mobile,” Gerald Burnett stated.

Robert Bracewell stated he had multiple issues and his copy of the proposed ordinance looked marked up on nearly every page. He suggested the Council table the discussion to allow the issue to be studied a bit more. An idea that fellow council member Bradley Dye objected to because food trucks – though a problem to some – are a solution to others.

“We are trying to approve them so they can be involved in the youth softball leagues this year,” Dye stated. “I know you know but trying to get people to work the concession stand is like pulling teeth.”

Dye explained that the leagued planned to invite several area food trucks to vend on game days in exchange for a 10 percent donation to the youth softball program. It’s an idea County Attorney John T. Bobo stated is already being executed in Shelbyville.

“These things are growing in popularity. We’ve called on them for the Bell Buckle Craft Fair and The Celebration. There are several potential issues with them. You just have to stay on top of it.”

“The thing is this almost discourages them from operating in the park and I feel like we should be encouraging that and charging people to do it,” Bracewell stated.

Attorney Bobo admitted during the meeting that the Metro ordinance might be overly precise.

“This is probably a little bit stricter than anything else that I’ve seen,” he stated. “It covers more detail.”

Ultimately, Bracewell asked the obvious question: if food trucks are already operating inside Moore County what happens if the Metro Council does nothing? Why the urgency?

“That’s a good point,” Bobo replied. “If you do nothing and no one is kicking them out, and you bring them to your ballgame, then there you go.”

Citizens who want to get involved should attend public meetings and address their concerns directly with elected and appointed officials through the now state-mandated public comment section of each meeting. The Metro Council meeting happens at 6:30 p.m. on Monday at the American Legion Building. To be added to the agenda or heard during the public comment section, contact Mayor Sloan Stewart’s office at 931-759-7076. •

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