Order up: Chapel Hill OKs food truck rules

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The Chapel Hill Town Council voted unanimously Monday night to allow food trucks to do business there, joining the party that Carrboro and Durham have long hosted and Raleigh and Hillsborough recently hopped aboard.

Food trucks can grace Chapel Hill streets beginning March 1.

After 16 months of consideration, the council gave its seal of approval Monday following a brief presentation by Principal Planner Kendal Brown and no discussion.

Food trucks like the Grilled Cheese Bus, shown here at a roundup at Rebus Works in Boylan Heights of Raleigh, can serve in Chapel Hill beginning March 1..
  • File photo by Jeremy Lange
  • Food trucks like the Grilled Cheese Bus, shown here at a roundup at Rebus Works in Boylan Heights of Raleigh, can serve in Chapel Hill beginning March 1..
In a series of amendments to town code, zoning, land use management and the budget ordinance, the Town Council established that mobile eateries can operate so long as they pay the fees and follow the rules.

Vendors must pay $743 annually to do business. That includes $118 for a zoning permit, $25 for a privilege license and $600 per truck to pay for code enforcement.

Business can occur only on private, commercial lots. Trucks cannot set up within 100 feet of a restaurant unless granted permission by the owner.

The town will use “proactive compliance,” meaning they will actively perform monthly inspections to make sure rules are followed rather than waiting for citizen complaints and then inquiring. Citations and $50 fines for noncompliance can be issued on the spot. The fines will be levied each day that a truck is found in error. The rules passed include an education program for vendors to make clear the rules and the consequences of violating them.

At previous meetings on food trucks council members expressed concern about the ability to make sure that tax revenue collected by the food trucks in Chapel Hill stays local, the cost of enforcing the rules and protecting established brick-and-mortar restaurants from competition.

Brown’s memo to the council states that the Inspections Department likely will need to hire a part-time staff member to monitor the trucks. The department does not have a second-shift officer. The $600 fee per truck or trailer is intended to fund that position.

Town Council will reassess the food truck ordinances in 12 months.

Raleigh passed rules to allow food trucks in September and they have been operating since October 1. Hillsborough followed suit in November.

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