The Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners approved on first reading a six-month “trial run” period to allow food trucks in residential and industrial districts after a three-hour discussion at their Monday night meeting.
The food truck resolution was amended seven times and then passed by a 3-2 vote (Mayor James Maness and District 4 Commissioner Jennifer Milele voted against it). It adds to the current zoning regulations a new section related to temporary events to allow mobile food venders in neighbors and industrial districts with some restrictions from July 1-December 1.
The second reading for the resolution is scheduled for June 26.
The original zoning allows food trucks at city-sponsored events in areas such as parks and was adopted in 2001. District 3 Commissioner Scott Hefner is the sponsor of the new resolution that was deferred at the May 8 meeting because commissioners wanted more tweaks.
“Concerns were mentioned that it was unfair non-HOA (homeowners association) neighborhoods were left out and a sales tax loss on food trucks, so we will work on that,” he said.
Midway through Monday’s discussion Maness suggested the six-month period.
“Let’s pass what we work out tonight on first reading under a six-month sunshine clause,” he said. “If it ends up being a disaster, we walk away. If all are happy … we can re-evaluate in six months, do some more tweaking. This is unchartered territory. Let’s move ahead with something.”
Milele opposed the ordinance because she said she was concerned about protecting brick and mortar restaurants’ business and the fact food truck vendors produce no sales tax revenues for the city. Hefner said his proposed $100 licensing fee would “cover the loss of sales tax.”
“The ordinance on the table is wide-open,” she said. “There are very few limitations. Just picture food trucks everywhere, seven days a week. Most will be from outside of the city. This city survives on sales taxes. Our brick and mortars spend a lot of money to build. This proposal is detrimental to sales tax. I think it’s absurd for him (Hefner) to jeopardize this.”
Vice-Mayor Bill Trivett walked out of the meeting before the final vote was taken and it ended up being 2-2 with Hefner and Ray Justice voting to approve it. The commissioners also voted against a companion ordinance to hire a planning technician who would handle all of the additional temporary permits related to food trucks.
Trivett returned and apologized he left the meeting, saying he went to order pizza for city employees because the meeting was so long. He made a motion to have more discussion and another vote for the resolution, and it was approved.
Commissioners deferred the ordinance to hire a planning technician until the item’s second reading next month.
Justice repeatedly said he was uncomfortable with what seemed like “government overreach.”
“Let’s stop restricting,” he said. “Let them (food trucks) come.”
The amended resolution includes a $100 per day licensing fee for all trucks that do not have a Mt. Juliet origin. That eliminated previously proposed monthly and yearly fee options. Mt Juliet Planning Director Jennifer Hamblen confirmed that food trucks who do not have to pay the licensing fee must still apply for a permit.
Other amendments restrict the number of permits per vender, per year to 12 and no more than two days each event; allowing non-HOA neighborhoods to have food trucks at a “community event” that is open to the public; allowing food trucks to be operated in residential areas on private property sponsored by a group of homeowners or an HOA; dropping bathroom requirements at food truck events; and clarifying that an “industrial area is warehousing, goods, transport and storage.”
“This discussion is off the rails,” a frustrated Maness said at one point. “It’s been two-and-one-half hours of debate when it could have been passed in 30 minutes.”