Asheville City Council preview: Food trucks, round 2

After a lengthy public debate and close vote at the last formal Asheville City Council meeting, new rules allowing food trucks downtown narrowly passed. However, since a second vote is required when a development change that passes that closely, the rules are back for another reading at the Sept. 13 meeting.

The rules, which would allow 10 food truck permits downtown, with rules governing location, power sources and operating hours. The rules are a result of a food truck subcommittee of the Downtown Commission, formed over a year ago, as well as modifications by staff, who have said they don’t expect enforcement of the permits and rules to be particularly burdensome.

However, the rules only passed 4-3, with Mayor Terry Bellamy along with Council members Jan Davis and Cecil Bothwell voting against. Opponents of the measure cited fears about competition with established restaurants and concerns — despite staff’s assurances — about the possible dangers of allowing food trucks downtown, including late night noise and trash.

Despite successfully adding an amendment requiring the trucks to operate on quieter plug-in electrical power (instead of a generator), Bothwell was among the opponents, and still voted against the rules. However, in an e-mail newsletter, Bothwell said he was considering supporting the measure, with more changes.

“I voted against the ordinance because I believe it still needs improvement,” he writes, before bringing up a number of possible changes he’ll discuss with Council, including the permit fees, trash collection, and halving the number of permits allowed, to five.

That last part could prove problematic, as food truck advocates noted at the last meeting that there are 7-8 locally-owned food trucks operating in the area that would like access to downtown permits once they became available.

Bellamy too, indicated to 880AM news radio that she might consider changing her vote.

“Bellamy says there is a chance she may support the measure this time around,” the report reads. “Bellamy says she voted against the new rules allowing the food trucks for several reasons. One of the main reasons is there was no limit to the number of permits that would be given out. She says she doesn’t want food trucks parked at every corner.”

However, the report isn’t clear if Bellamy is under the impression that there’s no limits to number of permits in downtown (which there are, in the proposed rules) or if she’s talking about elsewhere in the city, where there is no such statutory limit on the number of food trucks. The report also states that Bellamy will propose some amendments of her own to the ordinance.

However, if the four Council members who voted for the rules last session maintain their support, the rules could pass without further change. A 4-3 vote is enough to pass a development change on the second reading.

Council will also consider approval of the 77-unit Skyloft development and receive an update on emergency management, among other matters.

Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m. on the second floor of City Hall, Tuesday, Sept. 13.

— David Forbes, senior news reporter


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