Published: Jun 09, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jun 08, 2012 07:21 PM
After many months’ worth of wringing of hands and discussion about every conceivable misfortune that might follow, the Chapel Hill Town Council earlier this year finally agreed on new rules allowing food trucks to operate within the city limits.
In the six months since, guess how many food truck operators have lined up to do business in what must be a potentially lucrative market?
Which is hardly surprising when you consider the fees and restrictions Chapel Hill put in place.
In Carrboro, it costs you $85 to apply for a permit to operate a food truck. In Durham, it’s $75, where there is a booming food truck culture. It’s costlier in Raleigh – $226 – but that’s still not terribly steep, and the market makes it worth it. In Chapel Hill? Almost $900. And the town also has very tight restrictions on where a food truck can opereate.
It’s small wonder that the food truck operators around here opt to do business in Raleigh, Durham and Carrboro (where not a few of their customers are hungry Chapel Hillians sneaking across the border).
It kind of makes you wonder why Chapel Hill bothered. What was the point of all the time, energy and effort that went into crafting the rules if they are so onerous they deter anyone from applying?
Some food truck operators wonder whether that was the town’s intent all along: To go on record as supportive of food trucks but to make it so difficult for them to operate that the town never has to actually deal with any.
We doubt that’s what the town meant to do, but we certainly understand why some food truck operators see it that way. Either way, the result is the same: No food trucks.
Which is a shame.
The taco trucks, dumplings-on-wheels and other mobile eateries that draw attention and hungry residents in most of our neighboring towns are popular for a reason. They’re fun, laid-back and convenient. They spice up the place. And, contrary to the fears of some local businesspeople, they somehow manage to coexist happily with their brick-and-mortar neighbors.
We are blessed to live in a town with a long tradition of careful management of land and development. We’re glad the staff and Town Council pay close attention to the consequences – economic, environmental, social and otherwise – of the proposals that come before them. The town is the better off for that kind of oversight.
But we can go too far. Sometimes we overthink things – and with the food trucks, we have.
Chapel Hill has a widespread reputation as a town that puts up an excessive number of hoops for businesspeople to jump through. The town has been working to counter that image. Easing the rules, lowering the fees and showing food truck operators a Welcome sign would be an excellent step in that direction.
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