Published: Jul 07, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jul 05, 2012 01:54 PM
Email lists last week were abuzz within minutes when City Hall posted its proposals for regulating food trucks.
“EEEEUUUUUWWWW,” wrote citizen Nancy Hardin on the Arts and Business Coalition list. “The restrictions make downtown Durham and our fabulous Central Park begin to resemble Governors Club.”
It’s arguable whether downtown Durham would be turned into the semblance of that swanky, gated, golf-course subdivision by the ordinance revisions city authorities have drafted for “Regulation of Street Vending and Special-Event Permits.” (See bit.ly/MJN64v
But the alarm in Hardin’s reaction, and others like it, show how entrenched food trucks have become in Durham’s urban landscape and self-image – not to mention commerce. So does the public meeting that city-county planners are hosting Monday night to explain what their rule proposals are supposed to do.
For one thing, they remove a rule that vendors move at least once every 15 minutes. Among others, the rules cover:
• Permit requirements;
• Public rights-of-way access;
• Required distance from permanent restaurants.
The main cause for consternation, though, has been restrictions on mobile food vending in and around Durham Central Park, especially during Farmers’ Market hours. That’s the bad part, said Chela Tu, who sells Asian food from the Chirba Chirba truck.
“Farmers and food trucks have a good relationship,” Tu said, and the regulations “limit interaction with farmers (and) an important public space in Durham.”
Pie Pushers owner Becky Cascio said the city drew up the proposals without asking for input from food truck operators themselves.
“The approach they’re taking is not the best solution,” she said.
City Councilman Mike Woodard said “the notion here” is to clarify the rules and make them easy for vendors, the public and city authorities to find.
“Policies and ordinances on this were scattered in different documents and different places” in the city code,” he said.
Mobile food sellers, complaints about some of them, and regulations affecting them came up in the city-county planning committee almost two years ago, but the impetus for the current draft came from the city manager’s office, said Planning Supervisor Grace Smith.
“We were recently tasked ... to get the issue out there and walk it through the public process,” she said. Posting the draft on the city Website and holding a public meeting are “our way of getting it out there.”
“It is definitely not etched in granite,” she added.
“The city will need some input from the community to get this one right,” said Scott Harmon, an architect and developer and long-time booster of downtown.
Getting it right means protecting something important “for those of us who love Durham,” wrote Hardin, “as she is, has been, and can be: creative, energetic, vibrant and alive.”