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Maggie Valley to give food trucks a try

Elevated Mountain Distilling Company in Maggie Valley regularly hosts food trucks  on the weekends during concert events. Donated photo Elevated Mountain Distilling Company in Maggie Valley regularly hosts food trucks on the weekends during concert events. Donated photo

Maggie Valley has decided on the details for its Food Truck Pilot Program, slated for approval Oct. 4. 

At the Sept. 14 board meeting, Town Planner Kaitland Finkle presented Food Truck Pilot Program options to the board so members could decide what would work best for Maggie Valley. 

A survey conducted by the Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce, as well as a Facebook group for public input on the subject, demonstrated widespread support for food trucks in Maggie Valley. The strongest opposition, according to the survey, came from the restaurant industry. Similarly, the strongest opposition on the town board to the idea of food trucks in Maggie Valley comes from Mayor Mike Eveland, previous owner of Rendezvous Restaurant. 

The first decision made was where food trucks could be located. The board decided on the Sweet Briar Lot at 3399 Soco Road across from the festival grounds as the only location for potential food trucks. There will be three spots available for vendors to set up shop. 

Board members also had to decide how many hours per day and days per week food trucks would be permitted to serve food. Some board members wanted to restrict the days and hours food trucks could operate, but others questioned this logic during a program intended to determine what works best for Maggie Valley. 

“I think that if we’re doing a pilot period, we need to see what actually happens. If we restrict it, we won’t know,” said Alderwoman Twinkle Patel. “I think that every day makes sense, because we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

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Patel has been a strong supporter of allowing food trucks in the valley. 

“All I’ll say is, getting into October, September, November it’s the last months for restaurants. And we’re going to be competing against them Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays which are their biggest days. And taking away funds from them could hurt them during the course of the winter and that sort of thing,” said Eveland. “So just remember that your decision is going to impact people directly.” 

Aldermen Tammy and Philip Wight seem to be on board for food trucks. 

“I think if we’re going to do a pilot program to see how it works, how are we going to know what works if we don’t try every day,” said Tammy Wight.

Ultimately, the board decided to allow operation seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., except for days when there are events scheduled at the festival grounds. 

The new pilot program does not change regulations barring private businesses from allowing food trucks on their property. It is against town ordinance for private businesses to have food trucks operating on their property and changing the ordinance would require a text amendment. According to Finkle, this ordinance will likely be reassessed following the town’s pilot program. 

Dave Angel, owner of Elevated Mountain Distillery in Maggie Valley, pushed hard for food trucks to be available in Maggie Valley. He is pleased that the town has decided to move forward with a pilot program. 

“I think food trucks bring a whole new dimension, a whole new customer base to Maggie Valley,” said Angel. “It’s going to open up Maggie Valley to a whole new market of people that just aren’t coming today and it’s not going to hurt our local businesses at all. It’s going to help.”

During the Sept. 14 meeting, Alderwoman Tammy Wight said she thinks breweries and distilleries serving alcohol and no food should be allowed, perhaps even required, to have food trucks on their property. 

Angel is of a similar opinion. Without a kitchen at Elevated Mountain Distillery, food trucks are a good option for his customers. 

“As a place that serves alcohol, we don’t have to serve food, but I’d like to serve food,” said Angel. 

For the duration of the three month pilot program, a permitting fee of $100 per month will be required for any food trucks wanting to participate. The discussion over permit cost was contentious. Both Eveland and Phillip Wight were in favor of charging a higher fee for permits, concerned that food trucks might pay for the low-cost permit but not continue to set up shop in Maggie Valley if it isn’t worth their time or money. 

“It gets back to, are we as the town trying to book these to make sure they’re here as an option? Or are we making the option available for people to come?” asked Finkle. 

Food trucks that are permitted will be allowed to fill the three spots available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Vendors will also be required to submit a deposit to ensure proper grease and trash disposal. Each truck will be responsible for its own generator, as no electrical hookups are available. 

Finkle based her options and information for the board partly on the pilot programs of other cities in the region. Asheville conducted its own Food Truck Pilot Program in 2018. Similar to what Maggie Valley will conduct, Asheville had one location that accommodated up to four vendors, seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Approval of the Maggie Valley Food Truck Pilot Program will take place at the Oct. 4 agenda setting meeting. 

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