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Waynesville begins mobile vending discussions

fr foodtrucksThe debate over when, where and how mobile vendors should be allowed to operate within the town limits has now made its way to Waynesville.

As the town begins to get more requests from people wanting to locate their food trucks and food carts in Waynesville, Town Planner Elizabeth Teague brought the issue before the planning board to get a sense of how it should be handled. Specifically, the town had an application from John and Lucy Catton to operate a hotdog stand across from the Haywood County Historic Courthouse in the mini-park area. Catton said he didn’t want to compete with brick and mortar restaurants in downtown Waynesville but wanted to expand options for residents and visitors. 

“This would allow pedestrians to grab a quick bite to eat and so encouraging them to stay around longer to shop as well as take time to decide which restaurant they might like to sit down and eat at,” he said. 

Catton wrote in his business plan that he would operate the cart 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. He said he would offer a good quality product and provide great customer service. 

Several members of the Downtown Waynesville Association attended the planning meeting Monday night to provide feedback on the proposed hotdog cart and other mobile vending options. As a property owner and business owner on Main Street, DWA President John Keith said the downtown district was not the place for food trucks or carts. 

“I’ve seen these (carts) done in venues where it worked out fine but it’s different from downtown Waynesville where we do have people who have invested in the downtown district and are paying significant taxes to be there 365 days a year,” he said. 

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He added that allowing a hotdog cart to set up on public property, especially in a mini park that was paid for by the taxes collected by businesses in the district, would not be appropriate or fair. 

Richard Miller, owner of The Classic Wineseller and Church Street Depot in downtown, agreed that public property downtown was not the right place for a hotdog stand though he can understand the appeal of wanting to set up shop at the mini park. 

“We’ve spent 20 years building up the town… I’m proud of what the town has done, but I don’t think they’ve paid the dues to be there,” Miller said. “What they do on private property — I don’t care — but no type of temporary business should benefit from what we’ve worked hard to get.”

DWA Executive Director Buffy Phillips said the DWA board discussed the issue of mobile food trucks and carts at a recent retreat. Based on that brief discussion and email feedback from members Phillips said many businesses within the downtown district were against having any mobile vending downtown. While food trucks and carts might be a good option for downtown areas trying to revamp and create some pedestrian traffic, she said Downtown Waynesville was already a bustling Main Street with plenty of food options. 

“Maybe this is something more for Frog Level where they have empty stores and buildings,” she said. 

The planning board members were in consensus that they were not interested in allowing any food carts to operate in the downtown Waynesville district, but allowing food trucks on private and/or public property is an entirely different subject that needed to be considered. 

Teague told the board a text amendment could be added to the current land-use regulations to address mobile food vendors. The town has allowed food trucks to operate at special events under a temporary-use permit, but it has been hard to monitor and enforce. There is no cost for the permit and there are a few food trucks that are knowingly operating in town without getting the permit from the town. A taco food truck parks at Reo’s on South Main Street every Saturday night and multiple food trucks have been parked in front of Frog Level Brewing on Commerce Street on Friday and Saturday nights. 

“That’s public parking spaces being taken up, but the food trucks are also supporting a local business so that’s a positive,” Teague said. “But if someone slipped and fell it would be the town’s liability at stake because it’s public property.” 

David Young, co-owner of Mad Anthony’s Bottle Shop and Beer Garden on Branner Avenue, is also requesting to operate a food truck at his business, but his situation is a bit different from the others. Mad Anthony’s is located on private property and Young has no intentions of moving the food trailer that its now set up just behind the main building. He does have the temporary-use permit from the town, but wants to operate the food trailer more as a permanent business than as a mobile vendor. 

“I just want to operate my food truck on my property that I pay a mortgage and taxes on,” he said. “Right now we lose 50 percent of our potential business because of food — people leave to go eat and don’t come back.”

Young said the cost of retrofitting the 100-year-old farmhouse where his business is located to add a commercial kitchen would be astronomical, but a portable kitchen hooked up to the building should be an easy alternative. 

“We have the food trailer and we’ve met all the requirements from the health department,” he said “We’re ready to go as soon as we get the OK from the town.”

Tom McGuire, the new town building inspector, said Mad Anthony’s proposal seemed more like a permanent structure that should be treated like any other new addition to a building and must meet all new building codes.

With several different scenarios to consider, the planning board gave Teague and her staff direction to look into possible public property that may be suitable for mobile vendors to set up shop and work with Mad Anthony’s to figure out which building codes their food truck must meet. Teague will also look into adding a fee to the temporary-use permit for food trucks to operate on private property. She will make recommendations at the next planning board meeting. 

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