Charlotte, NC: Taco Truck Debate Re-Emerges

Councilmember Nancy Carter

By Franco Ordoñez | CharlotteObserver.com

Councilmember Nancy Carter

The long simmering debate over taco trucks in Charlotte is expected to resurface tonight when a group of owners appeals to the city council to loosen restrictions on mobile food vendors.

The group charges that a 2008 ordinance restricting when and where taco trucks can operate closed most of the Latino mobile vendors. Members say about seven of the original group of more than 50 of the “loncheras” still operate.

“With this economy people are looking for jobs and lunch truck vendors employ people,” said Hector Vaca, a community organizer assisting the group.

Neighborhood groups complained that the trucks attracted crime, loitering and congestion. But supporters alleged ethnic bias.

Council member Nancy Carter, who has met with the vendors, said it’s time to take another look at the ordinance. It sets a 9 p.m. curfew for the vendors and requires them to stay at least 400 feet from neighborhoods.

“Those are small business owners,” she said. “It’s not fair to take away opportunities that do not threaten a neighborhood or area.”

Ed Garber, chairman of the Eastside Political Action Committee, said the ordinance has eased the problems linked to the vendors. Calling this an ethnic debate is unfair, he said. This is about enforcing existing laws and protecting existing businesses, he said.

Residents might be open to extending the curfew by an hour or so, but Garber said limits on how close the vendors can operate to a neighborhood must remain.