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Stricter food truck rules inspire feedback

Sinclaire Sparkman • Updated May 24, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Mobile eatery owners in Lebanon were prompted to evaluate their business practices earlier this month after the Lebanon City Council passed a new city ordinance on first reading to regulate food truck operations. 

The ordinance, which will go into effect July 1 if passed, sets some stricter requirements for food trucks, like having a bathroom on site if operating for more than three hours, new permits and that food trucks must move every day. 

“For us, it was just a practical matter that if they were going to be mobile vendors, they really need to be mobile,” said Lebanon planning director Paul Corder. “It was never intended for somebody to take up a parcel of land and put a truck on it and really kind of act like a restaurant but not go through all that is required for that.”

A Lebanon zoning ordinance limits a temporary structure that sells food or goods to be at a set location for 60 days and no more. After the 60 days, a structure is considered permanent and must get different permits. 

“If someone came in and asked you to [move the truck], you’d need to be able to do it pretty quickly. We just wanted to keep that element of the mobile food vendor piece in there,” Corder said.

Any food truck operator must buy permits and a health inspection much like a brick and mortar business, but some stipulations like different per-day permits will create some new operating standards. A one-day permit will cost $25; a three-day permit will cost $50; a 10-day permit will cost $100; and an annual permit will cost $300.  

“We pay regular taxes and fees to set up. We get regular health inspections, so the city is still profiting from small businesses such as food trucks, too,” said Grace Dining owner and operator Corey Osbourne. 

Osbourne originally set up his hot chicken and Southern eats restaurant in a brick-and-mortar location on East Main Street about three years ago, but he switched to a food truck in October because he saw it as a better opportunity for his business. 

“I’m not upset about it or angry about it. I’ve heard some pros and cons. I was lucky enough to set up on the square. I do leave my trailer here every day with permission of the mayor. Now, the most I will have to do to keep going is get a porta potty and move [the trailer] every day.” Osbourne said.  

The food truck ordinance also lays out that food trucks will be allowed to operate from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., and storage of the unit is allowed at the owner’s home or permanent business. No chairs or tables will be allowed on public property, and a limited number will be allowed on private property. Food truck operations at Don Fox Park will be limited to three food trucks for no more than three hours at a time. 

“We want to encourage small businesses, but we also want to respect the businesses that are here. We think that asking the vendors to move every day kind of strikes that balance,” Corder said. 

The public will have a chance to comment before the next Lebanon City Council meeting, which will be held June 5 at 6 p.m. the Town Meeting Hall, 200 N. Castle Heights Ave. in Lebanon. The public hearing will start five minutes prior to the meeting. 

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