The City of Charlotte Planning Commission is seeking input from residents, local business owners, food truck operators and other mobile vendors as it considers whether to permit these kinds of mobile businesses in the city.
Community Development Director Bryan Myrkle said the city regularly gets requests from food truck operators to locate in Charlotte, but there is no allowance for them in the zoning ordinance.
“Right now, the ordinance requires most business operations to take place in enclosed buildings with some basic allowances for outside display and storage,” Myrkle said.
Myrkle said food truck vendors approach the city asking for permission to operate and aren’t satisfied with the answers city officials can provide. Over the past two years, those requests have come from a wide assortment of operators that range from fair-style food trailers to mobile coffee kiosks, taco trailers, ice cream trucks, hot dog stands and even non-food mobile vendors.
“The variety and regularity of these requests over the past few years has kind of surprised me,” Myrkle said. “This issue has already been addressed in some other Mid-Michigan communities, but we haven’t talked about it here in Charlotte.”
In addition to food truck operators who want to do business in Charlotte, city officials have also heard from a handful of local brick-and-mortar business owners who have opinions about the issue.
“I know there are people who have strong feelings about this,” Myrkle said. “That’s why we have to make an effort to hear from everyone and make a good decision.”
The city intends to hold at least two public hearings to gather public comment, and will study what other nearby communities are doing.
“This isn’t an effort to bring food trucks into the city, and it’s not an effort to keep them out,” he said. “We are taking a blank-slate approach to this. It may be that food trucks aren’t a good fit for Charlotte, but we need to find out.”
He said the possibilities range from giving food trucks basic freedom to operate in the city, to prohibiting them outright.
“We could also strike a compromise that allows them to operate at certain times and in certain areas, and not others.”
Myrkle provided an excerpt from a National League of Cities report that he said frames the issue clearly:
“For food truck vendors, it is assumed they would prefer an approach of looser regulations, clear, narrowly tailored laws, and streamlined procedures. For restaurants, it is assumed they favor stricter regulations that limit competition from food truck vendors. Although values are likely to vary among different community groups, it is assumed that — in general — community members hold quality of life concerns, including fear of negative spillovers (congestion, noise, pollution, etc.) as primary concerns, but also harbor a strong desire for community vibrancy. At the same time, community members generally prefer more food options to fewer. For city government, balancing the interests of stakeholders is a key priority, but so is a desire for economic vibrancy and revitalization, administrative ease, effective enforcement through regulatory clarity, and options that are budget friendly and cost-effective.”
The Planning Commission will hold its first hearing on the issue at its May 3 meeting, which will take place at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Charlotte City Hall.
“No matter your opinion, we want to hear from you,” Myrkle said.
He invited anyone interested to provide input at the meeting, but also submit comments via letter or through the city’s website
Article submitted by the City of Charlotte.