By Ran Northam | ChapelBoro.com
CHAPEL HILL – The Chapel Hill Town Council passed an ordinance allowing food trucks to do business within certain boundaries that took place March 1.
Since it took effect, no one has applied for a permit and the general consensus is that the fees and regulations are not worth it.
Council member Lee Storrow says he is going to propose a change.
“I’m planning to petition the council prior to our summer recess to move forward our reassessment and evaluation of our food truck ordinance,” Storrow says. “We haven’t seen any food trucks express interest to come to Chapel Hill. I’m interested in trying to bring that type of business to our community and I think we need to figure out what some of (the) problems are.”
The ordinance officially took effect on March 1. Prior to that time, Chapel Hill technically did allow food trucks, but only during special events and other highly restricted circumstances. But the ordinance allows food trucks to operate on privately owned nonresidential property in specified zoning districts.
All food truck vendors are required to have a Zoning Compliance Permit and an annual privilege license. Those vendors must also pay $118 for a site permit and $50 for a license, in addition to $600 per vendor to cover inspection and enforcement costs.
Storrow says while he believes the fees are too high, he feels they aren’t necessarily competitive with the area.
“Food trucks really are a regional business model,” Storrow says. “When we are competing with Raleigh, Hillsborough, Durham, and Carrboro, while our fees may not seem exorbitantly expensive, when food trucks are operating just fine in the current places they are, it doesn’t make economic sense for them to want to come to Chapel Hill.”
Owner of Parlez-Vous Crepe Jody Argote currently takes her food truck to Carrboro and Durham when school is in session. She says the Chapel Hill permit would cost about $861 per year which is just one of the reasons she does not work in Chapel Hill.
“The message that the food truck operators got from the Town of Chapel Hill is that they really weren’t welcome there,” Argote says. “Not only (are the fees exorbitant, but) the ways the restrictions are written, there are very few places that a food truck could actually park in Chapel Hill, even if the fees were to be paid.”
Storrow says, while it’s not a normal time to petition, he feels it is important enough for the Council to review their food truck regulations before they break for summer.
“I’m planning to petition Council to move the review up to the early fall at our last meeting in June,” Storrow says. “I’m also reaching out to folks now to find out what the particular concerns are so I can provide some ideas and thoughts about what good changes could look like.”
Coucil member Lee Storrow will petition the council June 25 at their meeting in Council Chambers at Town Hall.